Ten years ago, Bruce Stuart put out a call within his community asking all who were interested in joining a concert band to meet him in the practice room at the local high school.  To his pleasant surprise, more than sixty enthusiastic musicians attended that first session. Bruce handed out the music to the gathered musicians, stood in front of them, raised his arms, and led them through what would be the first of countless songs performed by the Brentwood Concert Band.

Directing a community band was near the top of Bruce’s bucket list, and in particular he envisioned a band in which seasoned musicians could be mentors for budding band members.  He would seat a high school student who had taken lessons for just a few years with a veteran member who had been playing for decades and, in some cases, had even performed professionally.  Bruce himself was an incredibly accomplished musician.  Over the course of his musical career he played in orchestras, jazz bands, concert bands, marching bands, and theater pit orchestras.  While playing in the pit for West Side Story, he met a pianist named Susan, and they were happily married one year later.  He played both acoustic bass and trombone from the time he was in grade school – but it was his proficiency with the latter that led him to play and conduct in Carnegie Hall, a dream come true for a passionate musician like Bruce.

Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Bruce and all of the musicians who joined him that spring evening in 2005, the Brentwood Concert Band has been a key player in the Contra Costa County music scene for ten years now. Over the years, the band’s mission has remained the same: to provide concert band entertainment for the community, to provide a local outlet for musicians to play their instruments, and to provide an educational environment for beginning band members, or anyone interested in improving their musical skills related to concert band music.

It was a tremendous loss to the band and to the greater Brentwood community when Bruce passed away in 2008.  In order to continue his great legacy, his wife Susan, a current Trilogy at The Vineyards member, stepped up and became co-conductor of the band, ensuring that the band would not miss a beat, and that one of the main missions of the group – to foster the talent of young musicians – would continue.  Susan is a highly accomplished musician and is a fixture of the local performing arts community.  She has shared her talents by performing in multiple bands and choirs.  Susan was also the Choral Director at Liberty High School for 35 years, where she led five choirs – A Capella Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Chamber Singers, Men’s Chorus, and Women’s Chorus. Today she is the co-conductor of the Brentwood Concert Band and the conductor of the Brentwood Community Chorus.  Sue co-conducts the band with Carey Hurst, the Liberty High School band director.

Another way in which Susan ensures that Bruce’s legacy will live on is through the Stuart Music Fund, which was started by Susan and Bruce’s son, Ian, and a family friend.  The Stuart Music Fund subsidizes the cost of private music lessons, music camps, or honor bands for young instrumental and vocal musicians.  It is the goal of the fund to support and encourage musicianship among students attending Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD) schools or local junior high schools feeding into LUHSD.  Since it was started seven years ago, the Stuart Music Fund has given more than $11,000 to 15 aspiring young performers.

Today, the Brentwood Concert Band performs in several concerts per year. If you’re a Trilogy at The Vineyards member, or if you live in the Brentwood area, mark your calendar for these upcoming musical performances:

  • Starry Nights series in City Park on August 21st
  • Veteran’s Day Musical Salute on November 7th
  • Annual Toys for Tots/Holiday Concert on December 7th

To get a taste of the entertainment you would enjoy at these events, watch the video below of the Brentwood Concert Band in action, playing “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man.

Local musicians – including Trilogy at The Vineyards members – who are interested in joining a concert band are welcome to attend rehearsals. If you would like to learn more about the Brentwood Concert Band or the Brentwood Community Chorus (which is also directed by Susan Stuart), please contact Susan at stuart.susan@gmail.com or call 925-642-3411.

Are you a musician who plays for crowds, or maybe just for friends at home? Tell us in a comment below what instrument you play.

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