a non-profit community band

entertaining audiences throughout

Erie County and beyond


Brent Johnson, Conductor, Gem City Concert Band


Brent Johnson is currently the director of the McDowell Center for Performing Arts in Erie, PA. His teaching responsibilities include directing the award-winning McDowell High School jazz band and wind ensemble, all performing arts classes (musical theater), piano class and was marching band director from 2010 through 2015 before taking over his current position. Brent leads the high school’s after school theater program that features four major theatrical productions a year. Brent is a graduate of Edinboro University with a degree in music education. Through Edinboro, he also completed a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Principal’s Certification.  Brent has studied conducting with Dr. Gary Grant, Dr. Peter Van den Honert, and Dr.Paula Holcolmb. Brent has played trumpet, conducted the orchestra, and been seen on stage in many shows at the Erie Playhouse. Brent has been the conductor of the Gem City Concert Band since the fall of 2018.


In his free time Brent enjoys spending time with his wife, Leah, and daughters, Addy and Millie. He is also an avid golfer and can be seen hitting the links at Lawrence Park Golf Club.


Brian Gresh, Assistant Conductor, Gem City Concert Band


Brian Gresh is an elementary music teacher for the Harbor Creek School District. Prior to this, he was the director of bands at Rocky Grove Middle High School (PA), Corry Area Middle High School (PA), Coudersport Area Middle-High School (PA), Sheffield Area Middle-High School (PA) and Buckingham County High School (VA). During his career, he has always been involved in every level of instruction of band programs from elementary through secondary.


Brian is on staff for the Mercyhurst University Marching Band, Laker Pride. He has previously guest conducted the IU-9 Junior Band. He also has presented workshops on literature for jazz ensembles, as well as music for solo and ensembles and concert band. He loves teaching all areas of instrumental music, from concert band, jazz ensembles, marching bands, to small ensembles. He has started and directed numerous steel drum ensembles during his teaching career. In his free time, Brian enjoys arranging music, playing trombone in various ensembles and musicals, playing board games and cards and doing woodworking.


Brian and his wife Penny and their dog Jillian live in Erie, PA. They have two grown daughters, Kayla and Nicole, and are the proud grandparents of Sophia, Miles and Emily, who are a large part of their lives.



Jim Caspar, Conductor, Gem City Jazz Ensemble


Jim Caspar graduated from Penn State University in 1991 with a degree in Music Education. While at Penn State, Jim performed with the Penn State Marching Blue Band, the Penn State Wind Ensemble, and Centre Dimensions, the university’s top jazz ensemble. Additionally, Jim was principle trumpet with the Penn State Symphony Orchestra and was a member of the Music Educators’ National Conference and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the country’s premier professional music fraternity. While at Penn State, Jim also performed with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra and the State College Opera Society’s Orchestra. Jim has played trumpet professionally with a number of bands and ensembles, from studio recordings with the Fred Waring Orchestra to a European tour with a performance and live CD recording at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1996 with the Buzz Jones Big Band. Jim has been a music educator for more than 25 years, teaching in the Brandywine School District from 1991 through 1997 and serving as the director of instrumental music for Wattsburg Area School District since 2001. From 2005-2010, Jim also conducted groups with the Greater Erie Youth Symphony Organization (GEYSO), and held the position of GEYSO Music Director from 2008-2010. He currently plays trombone in the Gem City Concert Band.


Past Conductors:


  • Adam Lehner
  • Joseph Lehner
  • Hank Russell
  • Lloyd Johns
  • Ralph Perkins
  • Ned Trautman
  • Gary Peterson
  • Tim McKinney
  • Betty McKinney
  • Scott Tomlison
  • Brian McCowin