Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC Brass Band leads off concert series

SMC Brass Band

Southwestern Michigan College Brass Band leads off the 10-week Beckwith Park Summer Concert Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, in downtown Dowagiac.

Founded by SMC Director of Bands Dr. Jon Korzun, the 32-member, British-style ensemble is composed of area band directors, community members and SMC students such as percussionist and trombonist Megan Kee of Constantine.

Euphonium player Carolyn Tarwacki played with the Brass Band at its first performance in 1992 and on the Wednesday night before her Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, death when she and her husband, John, were slain in their Howard Township home.

The Brass Band performed Richard Wagner’s “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” at their July 7, 2007, wedding at Hope Community Church in Niles.

Dr. Angela Evans, SMC director of institutional research, created a social media campaign on behalf of their 1989 Niles High School classmates to endow the Tarwacki scholarship from an idea hatched at a candlelight vigil for the couple.

Carolyn, 39, and John, 42, both worked for Quinlan and Fabish Music Co. (formerly Blessing). She was regional representative for 15 school districts in southwest Michigan. The scholarship honors their devotion to music.

Korzun will acknowledge this year’s recipient, Stevensville trombonist Jacob Blaylock.

Mrs. Tarwacki, who also played in municipal bands in St. Joseph and in Elkhart, Ind., was a student of two directors still performing with the Brass Band, Ken Working, E-flat tuba, and Richard Heemer, euphonium.

“She was my girl Friday. She came back for every band camp I had for years,” Working said. “She knew everything we needed to do, so it was like having another director. We started her on her instrument in sixth grade at Howard School.

“For her wedding, I timed her march down the aisle to the altar so she could reach it at the precise moment as Elsa. It was beautiful. Three years later, her mother requested we play it at her funeral. I still choke up when I think about it. It was very difficult. We laid her euphonium on the chair next to Dick at the funeral concert. I don’t know how he kept his composure.”

“Everyone knew Carolyn,” Working said. “If you needed something, you could call her in the middle of the night. She and John were happy together. They had authentic-looking Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes at Christmas.”

“She was a very giving person who helped people a lot,” Heemer said. “She had excellent organizational skills and would take care of you. She kept track of Ken and me and made sure everything was okay. She used to babysit my dog. She would do anything for anybody and not expect anything in return. It was a horrendous shock to everyone.”

The Brass Band is one of three SMC bands, including the Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble student groups which assemble fall and spring semesters.

A member of the North American Brass Band Association, the SMC Brass Band performs regularly on and off campus, including such venues as the John E.N. Howard Band Shell in St. Joseph and the Niles Riverfront Amphitheater.

Due to the band’s size, musicians will set up on Beeson Street rather than beneath the Haggin-Wimberley bandstand.

To contribute to the Carolyn McKnight-Tarwacki Scholarship Fund, make checks payable to “Southwestern Michigan College Foundation,” 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

Donations to any SMC scholarship fund are matched dollar-for-dollar by the college, automatically doubling contributions.

Dowagiac’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) sponsors the $5,000 concert series, which for the seventh summer will be underwritten by Huntington Bank.

Thursday evening concerts continue with: Out of Favor Boys, June 12; Tony Fields and Doug Decker, June 19; A Touch of Country, June 26; 5 O’Clock Somewhere, July 10; Lake Effect Jazz Big Band, July 17; Kalamazoo Avenue, July 24; Fonn Mor, July 31; Schlitz Creek, Aug. 7; and Otsego Jazz Ensemble, Aug. 14.

Aug. 21 is a scheduled rain date. Bring a lawn chair for seating.