Amy’s Brass Band Author and Illustrator Q&A

Today I am delighted to share an interview with the author and illustrator of the new picture book Amy’s Brass Band, Amy Schumaker Bliss and Allie Geddert. Read on to learn more about what went into creating this incredibly unique book! And if you haven’t already, click here to read my full review of Amy’s Brass Band.

About the Author: Amy Schumaker Bliss is a euphonium artist and music educator in the Philadelphia area. She completed her bachelor’s degrees in music education and euphonium performance at Capital University, her master’s degree in euphonium performance (minor in music education in the community) at The Royal Northern College of Music, and her doctorate in music performance (euphonium) with extra studies in music education at Rutgers University. She teaches euphonium, music appreciation, and brass band at Rowan University and Rowan College at Burlington County and lives just over the river from Philadelphia in New Jersey with her husband and toddler son.

Amy, what inspired you to write this book?

When my son was born, many people bought him musical toys and books because I’m a musician. I noticed that all of the books were of orchestral instruments, and none of them had my instrument, euphonium, because my instrument isn’t typically found in the orchestra. I looked for a brass band book for him because that’s where I do most of my work, but I couldn’t find one. I posted in discussion boards and asked in Facebook groups. No one had ever seen a book that introduced the brass band to young children. The brass band is one of the three major large ensembles we have (orchestra, wind band, and brass band). I thought we should have a book about it, so when I didn’t find one, I decided to write one myself.

Do you plan to continue writing books for children?

When I was looking for books for my son, I also looked for a wind ensemble/wind band book and was disappointed in what I found. There were very few and they were frequently inaccurate in their depictions of the instruments or showed people playing instruments in ways they wouldn’t have been played in real life (a marching band with bassoons!?). A book about wind ensemble may be in my future when my second born realizes that I wrote and dedicated a whole book for my first born.

What advice would give an aspiring musician?

Work on efficiency in practicing. Make a list of what you want to work on so that each time you practice, you know what you need to get done. This works for musicians at all levels. Otherwise, I’ve seen so many students start the beginning of their practice sessions playing through their music deciding what to work on. Imagine how much more you could improve if you could just dive right in to what needs to be done!

Listen to other musicians play music. Listen to the top musicians who play your instrument and also listen to vocalists singing. Instrumentalists are all singing, just through our instruments, so don’t forget to listen to those top musicians as well. Find who you want to sound like and figure out what they’re doing, then work on making it your own.

Look at how many different things musicians do at the professional level. If you want to become a professional musician someday, try looking at all of the different things musicians do. So frequently, we only see orchestral musicians and our music teachers. What about composing music for video games? Becoming a conductor? Arranging music for a military band? Working in the recording studio? There are so many ways to be a musician. The job is really only limited by your imagination. Who knows what you might do? I had no clue that I’d write a pretty successful children’s book, but here I am!

What is your favorite instrument in a brass band? Why?

With three degrees on euphonium, I’m probably a bit biased. My favorite instrument is obviously euphonium. However, my favorite instrument in the brass band context is the baritone. It is the cylindrical partner to the euphonium (which is conical). This means that the tubing on the euphonium gets bigger as it goes through the instrument, but a baritone stays largely the same until it gets to the bell. This means that it has a much punchier, direct sound like a trombone than the more tuba-like sounding euphonium. A good brass band need a great first baritone player because that person is one of the people who can change the sound of the whole band. My main brass band (Atlantic Brass Band) has a great one, but I’m also biased there as well, because he’s a former student.

About the Illustrator: Allie Geddert is an author, illustrator, and crafty gal who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her wild two-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or painting, you will probably find her dancing in her living room, reading, or napping with her cats. Amy’s Brass Band is her debut book as an illustrator. Find her on Instagram @artbyalesandra.

Allie, have you always wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I dove into painting as a serious hobby as a young adult. My esthetic has always been quirky and whimsical with the use of bold colors. It wasn’t until I noticed a pattern in feedback like, “This would be perfect for a nursery” or “my daughter would love this” that I realized I was creating art for children. After getting the opportunity to illustrate for Amy’s Brass Band, I know that this is a passion of mine I would love to pursue further.  Helping another writer’s story come to life and knowing that children all over the world are enjoying something we created is an incredible feeling.

What was your favorite thing about creating the illustrations for Amy’s Brass Band?

My favorite part of creating the art for Amy’s Brass Band was how well my vision meshed with Amy’s. It was important for both of us to create a diverse depiction of a band so that children from all walks of life could imagine themselves in the story. I had so much fun illustrating so many different characters with different styles and features.

What was the most challenging thing about illustrating this book?

The most challenging, and also another favorite, part for me was getting down the details of the instruments. Amy worked with her band members to make sure the musicians in my sketches were holding the instruments the way they should or that the close ups of the instruments were true to life. Sometimes we would send the artwork back and forth five or six times before it was ready to outline. But I enjoyed the challenge and it helped solidify the passion we both had for creating art that was accurate enough for a Brass Band member to be proud to share with their children.

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