Music educators head to Thailand

June 27 2008

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Two Indiana State University music professors, together with three of their friends, will make a return trip to Thailand to pick up where they left last year - serving as musical ambassadors and educators.

Indiana State professor Randy Mitchell and associate professor Brian Kilp, Daniel Kelly, former ISU music faculty member now teaching at the University of Southern Mississippi; Tim Olt, professor at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; and Mike Bass, assistant director of bands at Pearl River Community College, Poplarville, Miss., make up the musical group The Ambassador Brass, which will tour the region June 29-July 16. Also touring in Thailand will be Brent McPike, a guitar instructor at Indiana State.

Kilp has traveled and studied extensively in Thailand. Tour veterans Mitchell and Kelly are joined by two newcomers, Bass and Olt.

Bass, who joined the group after working with Kelly at Southern Mississippi, is looking forward to the experience.

"I've never been to Asia and I thought this would be a great experience," he said.

Olt, who performed with Kilp in the Free Brass Quintet, is looking forward to the opportunity since he was unable to go with the group last year.

"I couldn't participate because I just got married," he said, smiling.

Both Bass and Olt have experience in teaching high school students. Bass worked as a middle school and high school band director for 17 years while Olt has given private lessons to high school students for 15 years and will be teaching part-time in an Ohio high school this fall.

"Not only are they excellent musicians but they're excellent teachers," Mitchell, who is also the interim chair of Indiana State's music department, said.

During a two-week time period in June/July 2007, The Ambassador Brass visited seven Rajabhat universities and 15 other schools during their trip. Along the way, they performed a series of concerts, conducted clinics with students and made many new friends. The group also performed at the American Embassy in Bangkok for its 4th of July celebration.

Last year's tour was such a hit the group received invitations from the Thai Army and Navy bands, Maha Sarakham Rajabhat University and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University for this summer. The invitations served as a starting point for this year's tour and other opportunities soon followed.

The Ambassador Brass will also perform in Hua Hin and Phitsanuloke in addition to serving as the adjudicating panel for the first Thai National Wind and Brass Competition, July 1-4 in Bangkok. The music educators will work with young musicians at Kosumwithayasan School, where Kilp has worked with the school's aspiring musicians since 2005.

"They are so excited that we're coming to teach them," he said.

Along the way, there will be several performances, including a return visit to the Hua Hin Resort on July 5. For another concert, the Ambassador Brass will perform with 50 Thai dancers, a choir and a Thai traditional band.

"We have a lot of opportunities to perform," Mitchell said.

The Ambassador Brass will be exposing Thais to a wide range of American music, ranging from Jazz, ragtime, pop, rock and soul. Among the tunes they will perform is "Brown Eyed Girl," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Fly Me to the Moon," and "Back Home Again in Indiana."

"The Thais want to have students exposed to Western music, they just don't have the teachers or the resources," Kilp said. "Hopefully we fill that void, even if it's for a short time."

The Ambassador Brass will be joined by Eric John, United States Ambassador to Thailand, for a performance at Phitsanulok on July 11. John, a native of New Castle, Ind., has served extensively throughout East Asia and plays the trombone.

"Having the Ambassador play with us is a treat," Kilp said.

No matter where they travel in Thailand, the group doesn't have any trouble communicating with students or their audience.

"We don't need language. The music bridges everything," Kilp said.

For members of the Ambassador Brass, the experience is rewarding.

"It's a thrill to bring our expertise to our partner schools and enjoy the country, culture and people," Mitchell said.

For Bass and Olt, there is an additional reward - experience in dealing with diverse people.

"I really want to get more cultural diversity in my background," Olt said.

Touring the country is an intense experience for Kelly.

"To walk in and work with kids that are tickled to death that you're there recharges the batteries," he said. "It juices you up a bit."

In addition to performing and teaching, Kilp is hoping to facilitate projects between the Rajabhats and Indiana State academic departments. The cooperative effort is the result of agreements signed with Suan Sunandha Rajabhat as well as a consortium of 12 Rajabhat universities in northeast Thailand.

Photo and caption  

The Ambassador Brass
Front row (left to right): Mike Bass and Brian Kilp
Second Row (left to right): Randy Mitchell, Tim Olt and Daniel Kelly


Contact: Brian Kilp, associate professor of music,

Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or


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Story Highlights

Two Indiana State University music professors, together with three of their friends, will make a return trip to Thailand to pick up where they left last year - serving as musical ambassadors and educators.

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