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Guest trombonist teaches history, too
Northwinds concert blends music borrowed and blue
0226Northwinds-Scott Shelsta
Scott Schelsta of the Northwinds Symphonic Band


Listen as Ronald J. Evans, conductor of the Northwinds Symphonic Band, talks about the group’s concert, "Something Old, Something New ...," set for Saturday at Brenau University.

‘Something Old, Something New ...’

What: Concert by the Northwinds Symphonic Band
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pearce Auditorium, Brenau University
Cost: $15 adults; $10 seniors; $5 students

The moniker has nothing to do with Scott Shelsta’s age.

Rather, the 60-year-old trombonist is referred to as the "World’s Oldest Musician" because of the age of the music he plays and the 1890s ragtime costumes he wears on stage.

"We’re just old enough as a country to appreciate our own history and that’s basically what I do, I bring the audience back to 1890s Americana ... or right around that period," said Shelsta, speaking by phone from Alexandria, Va.

Shelsta is the featured performer at the Northwinds Symphonic Band’s concert, "Something Old, Something New ...," set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium.

The 92-member ensemble has used the popular wedding saying to craft its program for the evening.

"We’re (also) featuring some music that we’ve ‘borrowed’ from the operatic literature and also some ‘blue’ music," said Ronald J. Evans, founder and conductor of Northwinds.

The band, which consists mostly of North Georgia music educators, will perform John Philip Sousa’s "Who’s Who in Navy Blue" and Arthur Pryor’s "Blue Bells of Scotland."

Shelsta will play the trombone on "Blue Bells." He also is set to perform Pryor’s "Air Varie."

Those tunes are considered classic technical showpieces for trombone, Shelsta said, adding that Pryor was a noted soloist for Sousa before becoming the leader and soloist of his own highly successful concert band.

Also, David Brown, organist and music director at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, will accompany the band on organ on two selections.

"That should prove to be really something," Evans said.

Other songs include "La Forza Del Destino" by Giuseppe Verdi, "Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral" by Richard Wagner and "Army of the Nile" by Kenneth Alford.

Also, the audience might recognize Richard Strauss’ "Also Sprach Zaratustra," which is the opening theme from the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey."

But the highlight of the show is Shelsta, who, as a member of the U.S. Army Band, played for presidents and foreign heads of state. One of his military highlights was playing for the Internment of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier.

The South Dakota native has played symphonic to jazz music in a wide range of experiences, from Bob Hope TV specials to performing with the Wayne Newton, Glenn Miller, Bobby Vinton and Dean Martin orchestras.

As for the older music he plays, Shelsta said, "People want to be brought back into what their grandfathers and great-grandmas did and whatnot."

The 1890s music may have been ragtime, but life meant plenty of hard times.

"It was anything but the gay ’90s," he said. "You had women and children working 14-hour days. ... But we were expanding (as a country) and feeling we were the kings all of the sudden."

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