Millersville Music Spotlight: The boys of Big Boy Brass

Big Boy Brass recently released an album on Feb. 2. Pictured is Tim Zettlemoyer (Photo courtesy of Kaylee Rex).

Kaylee Rex

Arts & Culture Editor

 

The APSCUF Strike in October of 2016 was an exciting time on campus. Class was canceled, and students could spend the day however they wanted. For many, they stood in solidarity with their professors on the picket line. For Big Boy Brass, it was the beginning of an inpouring of gigs and recognition throughout the community. Matt Woodson, who plays drums in the band, saw an opportunity on the day of the Marauder Walk Out. He got his band mates together, had a quick practice, and then they headed to the library where the strike was taking place. The strike, already filled with energetic students, was taken to a whole other level when Big Boy Brass showed up to play. Students were singing “Hello from the picket line” along to the band’s arrangement of “Hello” by Adele. A crowd of students congregated in the yard outside the library to dance and listen to the band’s upbeat, brassy sound.

Connor Devlin on sousaphone dancing with students at the strike (Photo Courtesy of Kaylee Rex).
Connor Devlin on sousaphone dancing with students at the strike (Photo Courtesy of Kaylee Rex).

After the strike, Big Boy Brass became a well-known band on campus and was receiving requests from professors to play at the Millersville art centers. They realized after they started getting gigs that they were going to have to get more serious about the band. No one wanted to let each other down, so they got more organized and practiced more.

Big Boy Brass has quite a few members to create that loud and brassy sound they are known for. With seven main “Big Boys” and a number of guest performers, they wanted to ensure they always have enough people to play in case someone couldn’t make a gig. The main members are Ben Ewing and Vincent Shickora on trumpet, Nick Franks on saxophone, Matt Woodson on drums, Connor Devlin on sousaphone, and lastly Sam Yoder and Tim Zettlemoyer on trombone.

Big Boy Brass’ music is heavily influenced by New Orleans brass band music as well as jazz, funk, pop, and R&B. Specifically, the members credited Rebirth Brass Band, Youngblood Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, Lucky Chops, and a bunch more. The band estimates that they mostly perform new arrangements of other artists’ songs, but also have a solid amount of their original songs. “When the Saints Go Marching In” is always a crowd pleaser. The band also really enjoys playing one of their originals called “Raw Meat.”

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Devlin came up with the name Big Boy Brass after he was searching “brass bands” on YouTube and found mostly British brass music. He felt that the New Orleans style should be represented more for its big brassy sound.

“We’re big, we’re a bunch of boys, and you know, we’re playing brass,” explained Devlin. His instrument, the sousaphone, weighs around 30 pounds, Devlin estimated. “You have to get in sousaphone shape. It takes willpower,” said Devlin.

Big Boy Brass first came together in the summer of 2015, although they did not have a name back then. The boys played on First and Third Fridays and did the same thing the next summer in 2016 after taking a break for the school year. Delvin still remembers the date when someone asked to book them for the first time; it was September 4, 2016. A little over a month later, they would play at the Marauder Walk Out.

Big Boy Brass marching at the strike in 2016 (Photo Courtesy of Kaylee Rex).
Big Boy Brass marching at the strike in 2016 (Photo Courtesy of Kaylee Rex).

Now, the band frequently plays at the Lancaster club, Tellus360 on the rooftop. Some of their favorite gigs have been there and they are appreciative of the opportunities the club has given them. Also, in area they’ve played during Celebrate Lancaster, Beer Fest, and a refugee benefit.

“Lancaster is probably the reason we grew so fast,” Ewing says crediting the music scene in the city for giving them a good start. Big Boy Brass is hoping to branch out into Philadelphia next. Devlin says one of the coolest things about being well known in the Lancaster area is being recognized while he’s out and about. He also has loved being able to experience this growth and success with his band members.

Big Boy Brass recently released an album on Feb. 2 entitled “Live @ Tellus360.” They will be holding an album release show at Tellus360 on April 21. The album can be found on most music streaming services. More information about Big Boy Brass can be found at www.bigboybrass.com.