People: Brian Mason has special birthday celebration

July 26, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

Brian Mason celebrated his 37th birthday on the Fourth of July while on the 2004 European Concert Tour with the Advocate Brass Band.

He continued to celebrate his birthday for the entire 16-day trip, and as the days wore on, the older he felt. That's because the Advocate Brass Band sang or played "Happy Birthday" in his honor each day of the "Hands Across the Sea" tour of Greece, Italy, Austria and Germany.

Mason, a Boyle County High School graduate, is professor of percussion at Morehead State University. He was making his first trip with the band as a ringer in the percussion section.

It was midnight July 2 after the band's second concert in Markopoulo, Greece, that George Foreman, band conductor, announced that Mason was having a birthday. The band played again at dinner the next day, and again July 4.


"I guess I'm 47 now," Mason said after hearing "Happy Birthday" again on July 12. "By the time I get home, I'll be 50," he said, jokingly.

"Everybody enjoys celebrating my birthday."

While he heard a lot of singing about his special day, the only gift he received was a snowball from tour director Mike Calloway. The snow came from the band's trip to the Dolomite Alps, the highest peak in Italy.

Mason became interested in music after Dorothy Raines, choir director at Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, encouraged his parents to give him music lessons. Then Dennis Preston, former BCHS band director, and music director Jack Vaught apparently noticed that Mason had talent. Vaught encouraged him to play drums.

"I'd stay in class during recess for private lessons from Mr. Preston," he said.

"Mr. Preston encouraged me to teach percussion at band camp after I got into high school. He also encouraged me to write music because I was interested."

Mason majored in music performance at the University of Kentucky and headed west to get a master's degree in music performance at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He spent six years in Vegas working with drum and bugle corps, then became director of instrumental music and worship at Southern Gables Church in Denver.

"That put my name on the map," said Mason.

Teaching marching percussion has taken him to Japan, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico and all over the United States. He's also written seven pieces of original compositions that have been published, and his work has been published twice in music magazines.

Mason was involved in drum and bugle corps for 16 years. During his time with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, he won two championships in the Drum Corps International World Championships while attending UNLV, and three percussion titles. He also won in drum line competition at Winter Guard International Championships in 1997.

He has worked with high schools in eight states that have been champions, as well as the Bands of America grand national championships.

Mason has a line of signature keyboard mallets and drum sticks made by Vic Firth Inc. in Boston, Mass.

In 2003 at Morehead, Mason won the college division championship at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention.

"I've been lucky," he said.

"To get a job in music, you gotta hustle. You have to create your own job," Mason said. "Fortunately, I have been able to write music and perform. It's not easy. I have worked on weekends and evenings. You can make a living, but it's not easy.

"In music, it's trendy. I love to perform. I look at that as a reward for me. When I'm performing music, the world stops. Whether it's an ensemble or solo, I truly get lost in music."

His favorite thing is working with young people.

"If I can contribute to the arts, that's great. When I see students succeed, it's great, too."

His parents, Connie and W. Farris Mason of Danville, who have no music backgrounds, have supported him every step of the way.

"I'm not really that old," said Mason, talking about his experiences in the music field. "If I never travel again, I've been fortunate already. All my success came from working hard, and a lot of it was being in the right place at the right time."

And before he gets any older, Mason has decided to begin work on a doctorate in musical arts in percussion this fall at UK. It will be only part-time, because he's a full-time teacher and plans to continue to judge and teach percussion.

Central Kentucky News Articles