WASHINGTON – As commuters ride escalators to the street at the Gallery Place Metro station, a familiar song surrounds them.
Then they see the busy Washington street and a small crowd at the corner of 7th and F streets NW outside the Verizon Center. People passing through the intersection nod their heads to the sound of “Shake it Up Baby” performed by a group of eight musicians playing drums and brass instruments.
The group is aptly named Brass Connection. They have been together as a band for three years, and rehearse in band manager William Jones’s recording studio in Charlotte, N.C.
Band members, ranging in ages from 13 to 51, are all family and it shows in their performance. The transition from song to song is done with ease, with a signal from Jason “Poo” Artis, the band’s musical leader.
The energy of the crowd plays a huge role in the group’s performances. That “vibe” helps dictate which song they will play next, keeps them motivated and makes playing enjoyable.
Brass Connection makes an effort to choose songs that are recognizable, with strong chords people can move to. Songs in their act include “Just my Imagination,” “Lean on Me” and “Bustin’ Loose.”
“I just keep playing, I can’t stop” Artis said about playing in the band with his family.
The group often comes to the Washington area to play at weddings, restaurants and gallery openings. If time allows, they will travel to the area early to play on the streets where they get the appreciation of a diverse Washington audience.
Brass Connection plays at the Gallery Place stop in the afternoon and often moves to the Dupont Circle stop at night. The band earns from $300 to $400 during their performances on the street.
They use the money to buy instruments and school supplies for younger members of the band. The three youngest members, who are 13, 14 and 16, attend school in Charlotte. They were all taught to play brass instruments by their family.
“It’s a family effort to teach them, so they can learn together,” Jones said.
Sometimes they use the money to throw barbeques for the family back in Charlotte.
The values of this group are clear, working together as a family keeps them positive and productive.
“It’s a good hobby, keeps me doing something, keeps me traveling,” Julian Meadows, 28, said. “Helps me motivate the younger people to do something.”