Professor founded brass quintet to practice what he teaches

FAIRMONT (AP) — For Fairmont resident John Schooley, music is more than just a hobby.

As a retired Fairmont State University music theory and low brass professor, Schooley’s career in music is not quite finished. He has been a performing member of the West Virginia Brass Quintet since its founding in June 2009.

The WVBQ serves as a chamber ensemble that engages in repertoire spanning centuries of music. They share their performances at many categories of events including church services, weddings, conferences, community events, graduation ceremonies and more. Not to mention, the WVBQ has sustained a holiday residency at the famous Greenbrier Resort for 14 plus years.

Other accolades and performances include locations like the Artist Series Concerts at the Tamarack Center in Beckley, the Penn Alps Summer Concert Series and the Barbara B. Highland Concert at the Waldomore Library in Clarksburg.

Members include David Dayton, trumpet; Adam Loudin, trumpet; Andrew Scott, horn; Brian Plitnik, trombone; and Schooley, tuba.

With members living more than 150 miles apart, the members go above and beyond and to great lengths to sustain their musicianship and passion for promoting the arts in the state of West Virginia.

Schooley was one of the founding members of the WVBQ in 2009. He attributes the founding to his urge to perform while teaching at FSU.

“The motivating thing for me was that I was a teacher of music, but I wasn’t, unless I played in a quintet or performing group, really exercising my craft,” Schooley said. “If you’re going to teach art, you really got to be a painter or a sculptor or something. You got to have your hands into making the thing that you are teaching. I think it’s the making of the music that is the motivating factor for me.”

While the WVBQ is not a full-time touring ensemble, they keep a busy schedule with 25 performances in 2017 and events already scheduled in advance for 2018. With multiple performances and the barrier of distance, the WVBQ goes above and beyond in terms of preparation for all of their scheduled events.

“When there’s an event that is going on that we are playing for, we try to sneak in time for us to rehearse at that event for the next event,” Schooley said. “When there is a high-profile concert, we will take more time in perfecting each piece, so then we will set up a more central location like in Morgantown at the CAC. We try to have rehearsals on a weekly or bi-weekly basis if it’s a high-profile performance.”

When Schooley isn’t performing or practicing with the WVBQ, he spends a lot of time composing, as he owns and operates a publishing company, Heilman Music Company.

“I have probably 12-15 published compositions for voice, choir, instruments and tuba quartets,” Schooley said. “My tuba quartets are known all over the world. My best sellers are two tuba quartets that I composed 25-30 years ago, and my biggest orders come from Japan, England, Germany and Switzerland.”

Heilman Music Company also publishes works from other composers including Virgil Thomson, who taught at Harvard and studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger.

Schooley considers himself a “pencil and paper” kind of composer, and he often arranges music for local choirs, including the First Presbyterian Church Choir in Fairmont, in which he performs.

“I sing OK,” Schooley said with a laugh. “I can read music pretty well, but it’s not like The Voice, where you envy the musicians you hear. We have choir rehearsal every Wednesday night, and it’s good exercise and good emotionally. We have a lot of fun, and it’s nice to sing and fun to sing, and you get to perform a concert every Sunday morning. That itself is very rewarding and refreshing.”

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