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By John Henry Lambert, Founder and Director 


Gramercy Brass Orchestra can trace its beginnings to 1964 when my parents, the late Majors John and Florence Lambert, were sent as Administrative Directors to The Salvation Army - Parkside Residence for Young Businesswomen. I, John, Jr. was 9 years old when we arrived at 18 Gramercy Park South. Mom and Dad were both gifted musicians, which had a great influence on me. I took advantage of band and orchestra programs that were offered in the public schools I attended. Music became my passion, so much so, that I opted to attend LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and graduated in 1974.

Prior to arriving on Gramercy Park, the Lambert  family had served at another Salvation Army residential center on West 13th Street, next door to the recently established Brotherhood Synagogue, led by its founder, the late Rabbi Irving Block. Rabbi Block and my dad became close friends and community clergy leaders on West 13th Street during the 1950s.

As fate would have it, not long after the Lambert family arrived at 18 Gramercy Park South, Rabbi Block and the Brotherhood Synagogue also moved to Gramercy Park, having purchased the deteriorating and vacant Quaker Meeting House at 28 Gramercy Park South.

As fate would have it, not long after the Lambert family arrived at 18 Gramercy Park South, Rabbi Block and the Brotherhood Synagogue also moved to Gramercy Park, having purchased the deteriorating and vacant Quaker Meeting House at 28 Gramercy Park South.

Because of their close friendship, Rabbi Block approached my dad about hosting his Brotherhood Congregation at The Salvation Army residence while the old Quaker Meeting House underwent extensive renovations. My dad was happy to help, and the Brotherhood Congregation held their meetings in our building at number 18 for nearly two years until their newly renovated building was ready. The Lambert-Block team was together again, this time serving the Gramercy Park community.

I continued with my musical development, attending the Manhattan School of Music receiving a degree in trumpet performance in 1978. I immediately found myself in Mexico City, having won a position in the trumpet section of the Orquesta Sinfónica Del Estado de México, for part of two symphony seasons there.

Upon my return to NYC and inspired to try something new in music, in 1982 I called a meeting of musical friends to read through the brass repertoire I had gathered over time. This was also my debut as a conductor. My colleagues seemed overjoyed with this opportunity and asked for more rehearsals. Before anyone truly knew what was happening, our new all-brass band was holding weekly rehearsals and seeking performance opportunities. We called it Gramercy Brass, and our first concert took place on Wall Street at the Trinity Church Noontime Concert Series in the summer of 1983.

Gramercy Brass Orchestra - 1980's

Original Members of The Gramercy Brass Orchestra - 1980's

As Gramercy Brass began to find its way, our Gramercy roots came back to us through a phone call from Rabbi Block. Although time had passed, Rabbi Block never forgot my father’s kindness in allowing his congregation to meet weekly at the Salvation Army building. I was somewhat bewildered as to why the Rabbi was contacting me. He was, of course, my father’s friend and  had heard about this new ensemble, Gramercy Brass. He extended an invitation for us to appear in concert, and on Thanksgiving Day, 1986, Gramercy Brass gave its first performance on Gramercy Park at the Brotherhood Synagogue. My mom and dad were both in attendance when Rabbi Block stood before the audience and proclaimed his enduring gratitude to my father for helping him bridge the gap between West 13th Street and Gramercy Park South.

Our first concert on Gramercy Park was the result of a warm friendship between Rabbi Block and my dad - truly an amazing bit of “community.” It also further demonstrated to me just how important the concept of community is. To further this notion, Rabbi Block made arrangements with The National Arts Club to host receptions following our Brotherhood performances. Thus began the Gramercy Brass Orchestra’s relationship with The National Arts Club. During that time, we were invited to play our unique music for various events at The National Arts Club, most notably, the 75th Birthday Party for then Mayor David Dinkins, where the mayor happily guest-conducted members of Gramercy Brass Orchestra during his party.

Mayor David Dinkins

One day, a call came from Rob Walsh, Executive Director of the 14th Street-Union Square Business Improvement District. They were in the process of a much needed renovation of Union Square Park, and Walsh, who eventually became the NYC Commissioner of Small Business, wanted quality music in the park as part of its renovation. In 1992, a series of four Gramercy Brass Orchestra performances took place in Union Square Park.

For the next 10 years, we built this concert series, naming it Arts on the Square (borrowed from Union Square’s fabled department store, S. Klein on the Square). The series grew to a presentation of about a dozen performances each summer, funded by the Union Square BID and many area businesses, allowing each performance to be offered free of charge. Gramercy Brass was becoming an institution in the greater Gramercy community.

During our time at Union Square, I happened to meet Jane Crotty, then Executive Director of the 23rd Street Association, also overseeing activities at Madison Square Park. Jane invited Gramercy Brass Orchestra to present a series of lunchtime concerts at Madison Square Park, supported by the 23rd Street Association and area businesses such as NY Life, MetLife, Rudin Management, McDonald’s Corporation, and others.

As with Union Square, the series grew, and with the continued leadership of Sharon Ullman, who assumed the reins of the 23rd Street Association as their president, Gramercy Brass Orchestra could be seen and heard for years to come under the name Flatiron Festival of Music. Over time, the City Parks Department, led by Commissioners Stern and Benepe, recruited Gramercy Brass Orchestra to  perform in other NYC parks, including Bryant Park, Battery Park, and Theodore Roosevelt Park.

In 1994, with the help of our friends at Jeffrey James Arts Consulting, Gramercy Brass Orchestra was nominated for and won the Lincoln Center Community Arts Award, for excellence in music and commitment to community. As a result of this award, Gramercy Brass Orchestra gave its Alice Tully Hall debut concert in May of 1995 to a sold out, enthusiastic audience. This was a turning point for Gramercy Brass Orchestra, having now reached one of the coveted concert stages in the performing arts world.

Although Gramercy Brass Orchestra continued concert performances in a variety of NYC parks and public spaces, we were now invited to perform in some of the leading stages in the East, including the famed Bard Summer Music Festival with the American Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Leon Botstein, Jazz at Lincoln Center for the Ogilvy Verge Digital Summit, and on tour at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA.

2000 was a banner year for the Gramercy Brass Orchestra. NY Salutes Dave Brubeck at 80 was the title of our Gramercy Brass performance held in both Madison Square Park and Bryant Park. American music icon Dave Brubeck joined Gramercy Brass with the famed Dave Brubeck Jazz Quartet, for a never-to-be-forgotten performance.

Dave Brubeck, Dr. Billy Taylor, and John Henry Lambert

Also in 2000, NYC officially celebrated the turn of a new millennium, with a full evening of events at Lincoln Center. Gramercy Brass Orchestra was invited to be the central music entity for the entire evening at the New York State Theater. Gramercy Brass Orchestra performed a full concert set, followed by a round of ballroom dancing for about 500 guests dancing to Vienna Waltzes.  At midnight, Gramercy Brass Orchestra was out on the Lincoln Center Plaza, welcoming in the year 2000 with blaring trumpets and resounding fanfares for the approximately 15,000 in attendance.


In 2001, following the horrendous attacks on the US in lower Manhattan, Gramercy Brass Orchestra was invited to record a complete album of music reflecting the American spirit. By early 2002, the Koch Record label released American Anthems, a robust recording of American patriotic music that was heard the world over.


The success of American Anthems led to two additional recorded projects on the Koch label, Christmas Time is Here and Brubeck: Bold and Brassy, featuring music by Dave and Christopher Brubeck.

A fourth recording by Gramercy Brass Orchestra returns to the Christmas season and will be released in celebration of Gramercy Brass Orchestra’s 40th Anniversary. This recording of all new arrangements by Mike Fahie, Max Morden, John Girvin and Michael Davis, is entitled A Gramercy Brass Christmas, with stunning cover art by Gramercy’s resident artist, Jessie Krause.


Mindful of the importance of music education for young people, Gramercy Brass Orchestra established Gramercy Brass Band Camp in 2005. GBBC is the official summer music institute of Gramercy Brass Orchestra, held annually at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. Students have the opportunity to spend a full week with principal members of Gramercy Brass Orchestra in a fun but intensive program of learning performance techniques and repertoire for the traditional brass band. GBBC completed its 18th Season in 2022.


In 2017 Gramercy Brass Orchestra was introduced to the community of Freehold, New Jersey, and the orchestra is developing a steady satellite program of music for all residents, as well as educational opportunities for young people and families living in this diverse region. Facilities were made available by the Reformed Church of Freehold in the downtown area, and we have partnered with the Freehold Area Open Door Food Pantry to assist with operations and become familiar with families in need of not only life sustaining services, but cultural activities as well. Since the beginning of this new collaboration, Gramercy Brass has spearheaded arts camps for the very young, as well as music programs for older students, offering instrumental instruction and, in many cases, securing them their musical instruments.

Through this experimental program, we have recognized a tangible need for arts and cultural support to this region and are working on providing programs to fill this critical need in the area.


As Gramercy Brass Orchestra embarks on its 41st Season, there are a few individuals (among many) whom we wish to recognize and give thanks. It is through the largesse and vision of Ben Hartley, Executive Director of The National Arts Club, that Gramercy Brass Orchestra has been able to continue its friendship with this eminent arts institution on Gramercy Park. Ben’s leadership has spoken with a strong voice to the arts community, offering programs that encourage arts leaders to join in collaboration with the NAC and each other, resulting in a brighter future for many arts organizations, especially as we emerge from more than two years of pandemic privation. Additionally, we are truly grateful to our 40th Anniversary Development Committee of long time friends, June Freemanzon (co-founder of the New York Pops Orchestra), Linda Zagaria (former President of the NAC and member of the Board of Governors), and Sharon Ullman (Former President of the 23rd Street Association) without whom, we would not be celebrating our 40 years in such robust style.


We extend a special thanks to District 2 - NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera, for her key role in today’s events and for helping us communicate with the appropriate city agencies, resulting in a successful celebration.


In addition, looking back over 40 years, there are many friends and supporters who have helped our cause and to whom we are extremely grateful. However, there are a special few who have been with us over the long haul with their time, financial gifts, and encouragement that have made a true difference.

Our deepest appreciation to these  wonderful long-time friends:


Dr. Benjamin Safirstein

The late Jack Rudin

The late Dr. Marcella Halpert

Dr. Morton Glickman

Jane Crotty

Molly Alger

Cathy Markoff

Logan Poelman

Susan Keyloun


Our sincere thanks also to the following key members of Gramercy Brass Orchestra’s team:


Principal Quintet Members:

John Henry Lambert

Max Morden

Lee Ann Newland

Mike Fahie

Bob Sacchi

Board of Directors:

Lee Ann Newland

Cathy Markoff

Steve Matthews

Jeana Rivas

Amy Dwyer

Logan Poelman


Having reached the 40 year milestone through hard work, commitment from our team of professional musicians, support from caring sponsors, and a drive to share our knowledge with every young person interested in our offerings in music education, we look to the future of Gramercy Brass Orchestra with hopes of continuing to have impact in our world and to better serve our community.


A bright future however, is not achievable without the essential financial support to sustain our work. It is with great joy that I announce the establishment of The Endowment for Gramercy Brass Orchestra of New York. The elation of celebrating 40 years, can only be enhanced by the knowledge that there is hope for our future. 2022 does not signal the end, but a new beginning!


There is more music to bring to our communities. There are more young people eager to learn and advance their skills by joining Gramercy Brass Band Camp. Families and young people in all the communities we serve are depending on Gramercy Brass to bring a high level of music and motivation to their worlds.

It is our heartfelt hope that Gramercy Brass Orchestra of New York has in some way, brought the magic of music into your world as well. We hope that you will consider joining us as we make plans for a strong future and strong financial backing through our Endowment Fund. Please reach out to us so we may have the privilege of working with you directly, to ensure our Endowment Fund is not only supporting our non-profit organization, but also providing satisfaction and much happiness to our generous friends and supporters.


Here’s to the next 40 years, with our sincere gratitude to everyone who has brought us to this celebration!

John Henry  Lambert 

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