It is the Super Bowl of Music Conferences. The Cadillac of Music Cars. It is the only place where you hear gems like:
Francis McBeth” “I am proud to say I have lived long enough to see the rise and fall of Communism in Russia and 12 tone rows.”
A wonderful two days in the city of Chicago, Illinois. There were many personal highlights along the way. I will make no apology for the shameless promotion of a few really good writers and new found friends that I spent some time with, in addition to an uplifting musical experience thanks to James Keene!
- The University of Illinois Wind Ensemble Concert – under the direction of James Keene performed works by Ticheli, Carter Pann (Holy Cow!), Hindemith, and Sousa (to name just a few). BRILLIANT!!! There have been few life changing moments that I clearly remember happening all at once (like listening to the Vaughan Williams fantasia on a theme of Tallis) – and this was definitely one of them. Keene was smooth and musical on the podium, the ensemble played with effortless power and grace. I think if God has a wind ensemble in heaven, James Keens might be the associate conductor.
- Reconnecting with Francis McBeth, James Barnes, Robert E. Foster, Jack Stamp, James Hosay, and James Curnow. The common denominator here among these gentlemen is a lifetime of commitment to musical excellence.
- Catching up with Sam Hazo, Tim Loest and Patrick Burns. All three of these guys are generating some great literature to read and perform with your groups. Sam is really blossoming as one of the hottest writers in our profession. Tim continues to pen solid music (through FJH) that is so educationally sound that students enjoy playing. Patrick is a new found friend and colleague who is doing absolutely great stuff at pratically every level. If you are the uniniated, I strongly encourage you to check out two pieces that hooked me on his writing – Suspended Animation and Enchanted Night. Look for more great things to come from each of these guys in the future. It is also worth mentioning here the music Julie Giroux, Joseph Spaniola, Willie Owens and Christopher Tucker.
- Meeting for the first time both Timothy Mahr and Brian Balmages. Listen up! There is more to Tim Mahr than just Endurance (although a great piece!). Check out View From the Mountaintop, Sol Solatar, and Hey! by Dr. Mahr and you will find some great music indeed. Brian’s reputation is quickly ascending in a lot of circles. The bulk of his work is for upper level groups, but the compositions he is putting out are just brilliant. He is a straight shooter, and does a great job improving the quality of literature available for public school bands.
- Great concerts – I heard two fine concerts by high school groups from Texas and Illinois. While technically precise, pristine intonation, and good balance, I did leave feeling that the conductors and musicians left a lot of the music on the page. My own philosophy is I don’t want to live life mezzo-nothing, so let’s put some emotion into our performance!
- Great clinics – jump on over to read the quote by James Barnes at Mustech.net, and you’ll get an idea just how good most of the clinics are at these conventions. Sometimes funny, most of the time practical, and always give you good food for thought. The other quote of that day also came from Dr. Barnes: “My high school band was small, and we didn’t have balanced instrumentation all the time. We did have a bassoon….it’s just that no one knew how to put it together.”
Take the time, and make the trip. Yes it seemed like a lot in two days, but I have come away with new respect for my profession, and more inspiration and determination to improve the quality of my life’s work. Being a band director is the only thing I know how to do, and it’s the only thing I want to do as a professional educator.