Art

Artist Spotlight: Meet Naptown Brass Band

Naptown Brass
Image courtesy of Dave Bontempo

About Naptown Brass Band

When Dave Bontempo bought a sousaphone in 2004, he was not a musician and the thought of the Naptown Brass Band was far from becoming a reality. The Annapolis native had a deep affinity for New Orleans-style street music and was inspired by hearing Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Kirk Joseph play the instrument, backing roots rocker Anders Osborne. “I thought, what a cool sound—I need to learn to play this!”

A year later, when Hurricane Katrina hit, Bontempo organized a benefit at The 8X10 in Baltimore, with Osborne and Joseph performing. When Bontempo picked Joseph up at the airport, he offered him his sousaphone, as he knows Joseph had lost his in the storm. Joseph didn’t need it, but when Dave admitted he didn’t know how to play the horn himself, Joseph offered to teach him and a musical friendship was born.

Naptown Brass
Image courtesy of Dave Bontempo

Horn skills in hand, Dave and fellow NOLA aficionado Keith Manuel started practicing, with the goal of creating a second-line-style band that would march in that year’s Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade. They reached out to trombonist Andy Fegley of Eastport Oyster Boys for help and had so much fun at the parade, they haven’t stopped since.

Today, there are 15 members in the revolving cast that makes up Naptown Brass Band, playing everything from trumpet and melodica to washboard. No doubt you’ve seen them; they appear at all sorts of city events, from the Annapolis Cup Croquet Match at St. John’s to the Eastport Tug of War, always getting the crowd going with their crowd-pleasing brass hits and second-line energy. They also play at clubs around town, most notably the New Orleans brunch, held at Red Red Wine Bar throughout the year.

Naptown Brass
Image courtesy of Dave Bontempo

Where to Catch a Set in May

May brings it all full circle for them when they head up the road to Mother’s in Baltimore to open up for New Orleans legends, the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band. Here in Annapolis, they’ll be welcoming partiers at Bands in the Sand, the annual fundraiser for Chesapeake Bay Foundation, held June 8 at the Phillip Merrill Environmental Center in Highland Beach. Or you may just run into them on a random day. “We’ll just decide to go downtown and crash the bars or wander into Chick n Ruths and play,” says Bontempo.

One thing that Annapolis has in common with the Big Easy is “an appreciation of street music,” says Bontempo. “Everywhere we go, people dance. They just love the sound. People always come up and say how much they like this kind of music, and they’re glad we’re playing.”

And in true New Orleans style, they can be booked to play second lines at anything from weddings to funerals.

Susan Moynihan

Susan spent her teenage years in Annapolis, when her parents settled here post-Navy career. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she set her sights on New York City, equally entranced by magazines and rock and roll. A chance trip to the Caribbean led her to the discovery of travel writing, and she spent the next 15 years as a travel editor, exploring the world from home bases in NYC and Florida. In 2013, she left publishing to start a travel planning company, The Honeymoonist, while continuing to write for national magazines. She relocated to Annapolis in 2018, and is thrilled to get to rediscover the area she’s always called home. When she’s not out scouting, Susan is playing her ukulele, chasing her schnoodle Ira, or volunteering with Annapolis Green.