Japan (Part 3 – Kyoto & Mito) by Dan West

USA February 2023 (Part 2) by Matthew Gee

USA Autumn 2022 (Part 4) by Aaron Akugbo

Aaron here!! I’ve been given the honour of writing about the last couple stops of our tour. After a week of exclusively driving everywhere, our next stop, Belton, Texas, meant us taking our first domestic flight of the trip from New York to Dallas/Ft Worth International. And after a very sleepy/antisocial 150-mile drive to our hotel, we arrived in Belton. 

With a good night’s sleep for everyone (having had lots of early starts so far on the trip), we headed to the Sue and Frank Mayborn Performing Arts Centre at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor for a masterclass with some students. Me and Simon Minshall were exempt from this masterclass so had the rare treat of being able to do some practice, and also took the time to research the interesting history of the university.

A quick rehearsal (observed by some of the masterclass students) was followed by tucking into our dinner, provided by the university and delivered from a local restaurant to give us our first Texan food fix of the tour! The concert was attended by a large audience with a real mix of ages present, and it was great to meet so many of the enthusiastic students.

After the concert, we headed to a neighbouring town, Temple, for chicken wings, tater tots, beers, and most importantly shuffleboard which I think was one of the group’s highlights wherever we were. On this occasion, a game of trumpets vs low brass saw the trumpets get absolutely demolished… and unfortunately that was the last game of shuffleboard for the trip (you’re only as good as your last game). 

The next morning, we had an early rehearsal for the group’s upcoming concerts back in the UK and Germany, which was fuelled by possibly the most hastily eaten breakfast of my life, due to the INCREDIBLY slow service that we received at the hotel. But spirits were lifted with music by Humperdinck and from the Nutcracker, to really get us in a Christmassy mood (despite starting the rehearsal at 9:30am).

To heighten morale even more, we stopped by Rudy’s Bar-B-Q on our way to Dallas airport for our obligatory Texas barbecue experience! And the food was thought to be so good that even a takeaway brisket was purchased for the remaining journey by designated eater Simon Minshall. #busbrisket

Outside Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ

Our final destination of the tour was Florida, and landing in Orlando, we had the joy of a long delay as the car rental company had no 12-seater passenger vans available (which was strange since we had booked one). Some expert diplomacy from Pete Smith and Simon Cox resulted in not one but two vehicles: one for trumpets, one for low brass, and a definite improvement on what we’d been expecting. We drove to our accommodation in  Kissimmee (via the inevitable burger/wings stop)  – no shuffleboard, so table tennis had to take its place.

We were staying in two houses at the Emerald Island Resort, one generously lent to us by our trumpet-playing friends Mike Allen and Julie Ryan (thank you!), and the other just a few doors down, booked through airbnb. Being a stone’s throw away from Walt Disney World, each room in the trumpets’ house was themed on a different Disney film, and I lucked out with a childhood favourite, The Lion King. (Simon claimed to be less pleased with Minnie Mouse and unicorns, although I have my suspicions.)

The next day was finally the point of the tour which where we had a whole day off, even without any travel required. I believe the trombones were slightly more productive with their mornings than we were (except Simon’s visit to the gym), but we eventually all linked up at Universal’s Islands of Adventure , which we’d been reliably informed had the best rollercoaster rides in the area. I got a hard time for not having seen essentially any of the movies that the rides were all based on (to be fair I wasn’t born when Jurassic Park was released), but still managed to have an incredible time. Group consensus was that the Velocicoaster was the best ride of the park, with very close second going to Hagrid’s Motorbike adventure. We joined the queue for the latter with the sun still high in the sky outside, and after mazing around inside for 2.5 hours, were surprised to emerge into the dark for an brilliantly original rollercoaster experience. 

The Incredible Hulk rollercoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure

The concert day in Florida started very relaxed with some time by the pool, a little food and a relatively short drive (for Septura) from Kissimmee to Indialantic, and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (just a few minutes’ walk from the beach!)

The concert was such a nice end to the trip with another receptive and eager audience – many of them hadn’t been to a brass concert before, but left converted to the world of brass chamber music. Our last night involved some food, drink, and even dancing, but what goes on tour stays on tour…

Our last morning was again spent next to pool before a very important mini golf tournament with Minshall taking home the 1st prize, recovering in style from his spectacular 20-over-par 3rd hole the previous day. After lunch, we drove back to Orlando for our flight home. Some final souvenir shopping was done in the airport’s many Disney shops before boarding the plane for our 8-hour journey back to London. Landing in London at around 7:30am (which felt like 3:30am to us) wasn’t the most pleasant, and in our hazy, sleepy state we collected our suitcases and said our goodbyes before all heading our separate ways. 

This was my first ever trip to America and quite honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for a better way of doing it! Thanks to all you guys for inviting me to play and for putting up with me for two weeks! Looking forward to the next one ✌🏾

A great end to a great tour!