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Julien Winds to take on Carnegie Hall

When Nicholas Bratcher moved to the Tri-States three years ago from Savannah, Ga., to pick up the baton as director of instrumental music at the University of Dubuque, he recognized the area’s bustling music community.

Still, he saw untapped potential.

“There are a lot of professional musicians — and by professional, I mean in the quality of playing, not just in that they’re compensated,” Bratcher said. “There are a lot of opportunities for them to perform instrumental music. Where there didn’t seem to be as many was in performing music that focuses on pieces written for wind instruments. And, there is a lot of great music out there.”

A wind player himself, Bratcher connected with friends and fellow musicians in the area, first establishing a double wind quintet and later creating an opportunity for wind players to come together with the auspices of forming an established chamber ensemble that would perform music written for such groups.

It was a way, Bratcher said, to gauge interest. Much to his surprise, Bratcher was welcomed by a full band room of eager players who showed up to that first meeting.

“It was a great feeling,” he said.

Only a couple of years later, the Julien Winds have taken shape, performing two local concerts per season, featuring a roster of 36-40 area players conducted by Bratcher, and boasting a high level of musicianship.

“In one of our first rehearsals, I had put some challenging music in front of the group just to see what I could do with them,” Bratcher said. “It turns out, I could do a lot.”

It’s a winning element that is taking this young ensemble to some big places.

The Julien Winds recently was selected to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of a June 2018 concert series that will feature similar ensembles.

Recognizing the group’s potential and acting on a whim, Bratcher had reached out to the prestigious New York City concert venue, submitting a recording of the ensemble.

Concert organizers liked what they heard.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Bratcher said. “We’ll perform for about 25-30 minutes. Just to be in Carnegie Hall, on that stage, and to be able to take in a large audience and New York as a group ... it’s such a surreal feeling.”

It’s a dream come true, too, for the musicians of the ensemble — many of whom have carried the aspiration of performing in Carnegie Hall from as early an age as picking up their instrument for the first time.

“I cried,” said Wendy Hinman, a veteran French horn player from Dubuque who performs with Julien Chamber Winds. “I’ve been playing since I was 11. Horn was my very first instrument. I’m finally going to be playing at Carnegie.”

Hinman’s husband, David, who plays trombone in the ensemble, also will be performing for the occasion, which fittingly will fall during the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary.

“What a beautiful gift for one of our life’s goals,” Hinman said.

In the process of establishing as a nonprofit, the Julien Chamber Winds has begun fundraising for this opportunity of a lifetime.

“We’re looking at about $65,000 to have a bus take us to and from New York for four days and three nights,” Bratcher said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we’ll make it happen.”

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