The Summit Brass is an ensemble of brass players drawn strictly from American symphony orchestras. It plays both original works and arrangements and consists of about 16 players, though the number can vary widely (from two players on up to full size and beyond) during performance, depending on the repertory. Guest artists, like pianists and percussionists, often join the group. The ensemble is made up of four players each on trumpet, trombone, and French horn and three on tuba and one on euphonium. The players regularly tour the U.S., Europe, Asia, and elsewhere and have made numerous recordings, all issued on their off-shoot enterprise Summit Records. Their repertory is fairly broad, taking in arrangements of works by J.S. Bach, Handel, Frescobaldi, Mussorgsky, Holst, Ravel, Shostakovich, Barber, Copland, Bernstein, and many original works by Hindemith, Eric Ewazen, Anthony Plog, Gunther Schuller, and a host of others. They also perform Broadway, jazz, and popular music selections.
The Summit Brass was formed in 1985 by trumpeter David Hickman, then a member of the St. Louis Brass Quintet. With the assistance of other members of the ensemble he was able to attract a number of the finest brass players from symphony orchestras across the U.S., including from those in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
By the late '80s the group had become internationally known from its many highly acclaimed concert tours. It formed the label Summit Records around this time. Its first effort, Toccata and Fugue, featuring arrangements of works by J.S. Bach, Frescobaldi, and other Baroque composers, was issued in January 1994.
The group was also regularly presenting works written for them, such as the Henri Lazarof Summit Concertante, which it premiered in 1996 and included on the CD Spirits of Fire, the following year. By the early years of the new century the ensemble, widely considered by then among the finest large brass ensembles in the world, had made numerous concert broadcasts on radio and television. The group also began taking part in the activities of the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute, a yearly seminar on brass playing that features performances and instruction on brass playing.
The group's 2003 appearance at the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute (held at the University of Denver) featured performances by the group of works by Bach, Ewazen, Shostakovich, and others. A CD on Summit Records documenting those performances was issued in 2008 to great critical acclaim.