The Brasscals at Honk! West Fest in Seattle | Credit: Courtesy

The Brasscals, a 13-member street brass band founded in Santa Barbara in early 2022, has just returned from HONK! West Fest, a globally recognized street brass-band festival in Seattle, WA. Not even existing two years ago, the band is now playing in national festivals, as well as in Santa Barbara and Ventura.

The formation of the Brasscals started with a bike ride and an ad on Craigslist. Maria Cincotta and Antoine Descos met at NightCycles in Santa Barbara, now known as Bike Delights, a community of DeLight-minded cyclists on a mission to explore the hidden treasures of Santa Barbara. They both shared the fact that they both had connections in Europe, played the alto sax, and wanted to start a brass band.

When Cincotta had to go to Italy, she lost touch with Descos but decided to put an ad on Craigslist in an attempt to find him and start the band — the rest is history. Their first name was the Brassholes, but they wanted something a little more family-friendly as the band has members that range in age from 19 to 80 years old, as well as something more playful, so they decided on the Brasscals.

As the band’s leaders, Cincotta and Descos start with some pre-made arrangements for songs, then they get inspiration from their 13 band members, who push them to try different genres and arrangements. The members are also encouraged to bring their own pieces and arrangements for the band to perform.

The Brasscals at a recent show at M. Special | Credit: Courtesy

Mary Beugelsdijk, one of the two trumpet players in the band, said, “It’s collaborative; just before the show tonight, we met and had a very business-like meeting about these moments for group feedback, so that everybody felt like they have a voice.”

As the band continues to grow organically, the two fearless leaders are open-minded to the feedback of the band and hope to make them feel like they are getting what they want out of the experience.

The Brasscals used to practice in Alameda Park, where people would be able to swing by and hear them play — this also introduced them to some of the members that they have today.

This was how Beugelsdijk became a member of the Brasscals. “I was really craving a musical thing and had just moved here [to Santa Barbara],” she said. “I saw these guys, and it was like a scene out of a movie; I swerved my car around and ran up to them.” There were no awkward introductions, just immediate connections.

One of the special qualities about the band is that they all come from a different background in terms of musicality, and can play a variety of unique instruments, such as a banjo and washboard.

“Some of us are natively trained by ear and can riff a solo like nobody else,” said Cincotta. “There are also some of us who come from the traditional formal, fitting concert bands, took music lessons, and had sheet music.”

The band members fill in each other’s weaknesses, a discovery and learning process that’s still ongoing today. “There’s a beauty for me that street brass bands are just whatever the people want to do, wherever it goes,” said Descos, “a real freedom musically, artistically; you can do whatever.”

HONK! West Fest in Seattle, Washington, was a special time for the Brasscals, as participation in this festival was by acceptance only. The Brasscals received the honor of being accepted just one and a half years into existence, having been the only band from California.

Not only did the Brasscals get to play in the festival, but they were also able to meet, listen, and network with other street brass bands. “It was so powerful to me to be able to connect with these random people,” said Cincotta. “It shows that you’re part of a global movement.”

At the end of each evening, all of the bands brought out their horns and drums and jammed together — creating a phenomenal sense of community and experience for the Brasscals.

“We’re a bunch of random people with such a crazy range of ages and backgrounds,” said Cincotta, “but we would have never met each other otherwise, and, speaking for myself, I think we love each other.”

At a recent show at M. Special Brewing Company in Goleta, the Brasscals talked about how much they love how people quickly embrace them as a fun, wholesome, unique band.

The band’s number-one goal is community awareness, and they would love people to come watch them perform or even join their band. As to where they’re headed next, the Brasscals are gearing up with talk of travel, with the possibility of an international tour within the next couple of years and more U.S. festivals.

The Brasscals’ next performance will be on Sunday, June 18, from 1-2 p.m. at the Patchwork Show in Ventura. More information about the Brasscals can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and their website and mailing list.


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