Chris Castellanos, a French horn player with the Boston Brass, performs during a master class at Westover High School Dec. 14, 2012. The group is in concert with the Albany Symphony and the Albany Chorale Dec. 15, 2012, at the 2012 Peppermint Pops.
ALBANY, Ga. -- When Chris Castellanos got into his first band class, it was all because of a tasty breakfast sandwich.
The distinguished French horn player for the Boston Brass told students at Westover High School Friday during a master class that band was the earliest class of the day at his school and that he had chosen the French horn partly because the intricate tubing looked like a motorcycle engine and partly so that he could hide his biscuit in the horn's bell first thing in the mornings.
"It was a good thing because there was a McDonald's pretty close by and I could just hide it in my hand in the bell," he said.
But by the time Castellanos decided to go to college, he had found his passion in music and decided to pursue it -- advice he passed on to the students at Westover Friday.
"My mom used to tell me that you need to find something that you like to, because you'll end up being better at it and enjoying life more," he said. "And that's what I'd like to share with you ... no matter what you decide to do, whether its music or whether you want to be a teacher or doctor or whatever, make it something that you enjoy doing."
Castellanos and the other four members of the Boston Brass -- a renowned quintet that is currently on tour around the globe -- took time Friday morning to play a private concert for the students and share with them some advice on improving their music performance skills but also discussing life skills that they hope will carry them far beyond the halls of their school.
The master classes are a way the Albany Symphony Orchestra tries to give back to the community. The Boston Brass will perform with the orchestra and the Albany Chorale at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. today at two Peppermint Pops concerts at the Albany Municipal Auditorium.
"Our thought is that if these professional musicians can get a student excited about music, or excited about performing, it could be a defining moment for that student," Symphony Conductor Claire Fox Hillard said in an interview with The Albany Herald earlier this year. "It's important for us to have people provide some level of an educational component when they come here to play."
Lance LaDuke, a trombone and euphonium player with the Brass, challenged the students to be productive during their upcoming winter break by practicing on overcoming the biggest challenge that they face as a musician.
"My challenge for you is to take the thing that scares you most as a musician -- whether its a particular scale or tone quality or your range -- and dedicate yourself to overcoming that before you come back on January 3," LaDuke said. "If you can overcome the thing that scares you most, you'll have more confidence, you'll play better and then you can focus on the next thing.
"It's kind of like that with life. Whether you're a doctor or lawyer, you're going to have things that challenge you. You need to be specific and focus on overcoming those challenges if you want to be successful."
After their time in Albany, the Brass will be embarking on an overseas tour for the rest of December that includes stops in three Italian cities and one performance in Austria.
The group will begin the new year on Jan. 9 by teaching a master class at the Hong Kong Academy of performing arts in China before launching an Asian tour that includes performances in Malasia and Singapore.
Tickets for today's performances can be purchased at albanysymphony.org or at the door. The cost of tickets are $5 and $10.