Quintet hits right notes with players
By Kim Hurley, Volga Correspondent
What do Steve McCorkindale, Jim Klosterboer, Doyce Huebsch, Kurt Kuenzel, and Bob Meyer have in common? All these five men not only share a love of playing music, but they also comprise the National Brass Quintet. Not the National Symphony of the U.S. Capitol. Rather, a brass quintet based out of Clayton County where they all live.
This local National Brass Quintet was organized in 1998 by McCorkindale, an attorney from Elkader, as a way of playing music with his son, Alex, who was then in high school. Steve had previously played in brass quintets and had a wealth of printed music. With Steve and Alex both playing trumpet, it was only a matter of recruiting members to fill the other chairs in a local quintet. Volga resident Doyce Huebsch, who is retired from the U.S. Army as well as from carpentry, was recruited as a trombone player. Kurt Kuenzel, a retired banker and college professor from Garnavillo, filled the French horn chair. Although Elkader’s Jim Klosterboer played baritone, he was persuaded to take up the tuba. Jim has recently retired as pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, but he continues to be a bus driver for the Central Community School district.
After Alex graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Navy in mid-2000, the remaining four musicians took the summer off. According to Steve, late that summer, the group heard about a middle-school band director who had taken a step away from the “dark side” of being a woodwind player by learning trumpet so he too could play with one of his sons. Hence, Bob Meyer, the self-proclaimed “mayor of East Giard,” became the other trumpet player of the quintet.
“We have been the same group ever since,” McCorkindale states with satisfaction.
With the quintet being nameless during the first year of its existence, McCorkindale suggested naming it “National Brass” with “National” pronounced “Nay-shun-ul” after the county fairgrounds village.
“When we can do so, we put a dash over the ‘a’ in the name so it is clear how to pronounce it,” McCorkindale explains, “We thought that the name was so pretentious and funny that we stuck with it.”
McCorkindale lists an array of musical genres the quintet plays: Classical, jazz, traditional, patriotic, popular, Dixieland, ragtime, and big band. They also have an arrangement of a Puccini aria from his last opera that features Doyce, their trombonist. According to McCorkindale, they voluntarily share their musical talents by playing several “gigs” and at least four concerts per year. Events for which they’ve played include Christmas concerts at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Bethany Lutheran Church, and Peace United Church of Christ, all in Elkader; at least one summer concert and one Christmas concert at the United Methodist Church in Giard; the dedication of the big flag pole in the park near the casino in Marquette; the 150th or 200th anniversary ceremony in Prairie du Chien of the opening of the Mississippi River valley for settlement and travel; St. Patrick Day parades in Elkader; Music on the River concerts in Elkader, and Music in the Park events in Volga.
The quintet has also been a musical outlet for its members, as several of them were either music majors in college or have played for most of their lives and still enjoy doing so. Although they rehearse twice per week, they spend an equal amount of time telling jokes and stories as they do actually playing music. “We have a great time together,” McCorkindale chuckles, “We also socialize with each other and our spouses outside of rehearsals.”
McCorkindale’s fellow band members very likely concur when he cites “continuing to make music at my advanced age and spending time with four guys whose companionship I treasure,” as the main reward he receives from playing in the National Brass quintet.