Versed as a euphonium and trombone performer, composer, arranger, low brass instructor, and musical instrument repair technician, it’s quite obvious that music encompasses the life of Sarah Houle.
“Music has been an essential artistic outlet for me,” said Houle. “Not only do I love playing in many different types of groups and playing different types of music, I love to compose and arrange as well. My first musical love will always be the euphonium, so nearly all of my original music includes a part for it.”
Houle’s musical abilities began in her youth by process of elimination.
“When I started my musical journey in 6th grade band, I was given only two choices of instrument, euphonium or tuba, and I chose the euphonium as my first instrument,” she shared. “I had terribly overcrowded teeth, so these two instruments were really the most forgiving for a student who would go through braces and several pulled teeth in middle and high school.”
To get more playing opportunities outside of concert band, Houle took up the trombone, followed by the trumpet, tuba and clarinet.
“I think one of the reasons I really got into composing and arranging music was so that I, as a euphonium player, could have the opportunity to play other types of music,” said Houle. “Euphonium is mostly used in concert band, seldom in orchestra, in British brass band, and in tuba quartet.”
She has also been inspired by other genres of music.
“The joyful sounds of New Orleans and the brass band scene there created in me a feeling of desire — desire to play that music and create in that art form.” Houle said. “So, when I was in college, I formed a New Orleans Brass Band with friends, transcribed several tunes from recordings, and we played.”
After earning a Bachelor of Music Euphonium and Trombone Performance from Minnesota State University, Houle toured the U.S. for four months as a pit musician for a Maryland theater company.
In 2017, she received a McKnight Artist Grant from Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council to put on two concerts of original music.
“Each concert was about an hour and a half and included my original brass music and arrangements of public domain pieces for solo euphonium, euphonium and tuba duet, brass quartet and quintet, brass quartet with radio actors, and New Orleans Brass Band,” said Houle.
She currently performs with a variety of musical groups, including the Mankato Area Community Band, the Minnesota River Valley Wind Ensemble, and the Mankato Symphony Orchestra. She can also been heard with the 10-piece band, Powerhouse, and Schell’s Hobo Band. Houle also manages to carve out time to compose music.
“Much of my original music is inspired by emotion,” she said. “I love nature and being outdoors, whether it is camping, hiking, gardening, kayaking, snowshoeing, or biking.”
Her next original music project involves traveling to natural locations along Minnesota's North Shore and Iron Range.
“There is always music in nature, even in the silence of the most remote places,” she added. “It's not birds singing or the sounds of water, but actual music and melodies and rhythms that present themselves in the form of emotions. I take that information, put it to notes on a page, and then, hopefully, I’m able to transfer it to other players and share the emotion with them and anyone who may be listening.”