The Musical Ensemble of the Future
I’m fortunate to have found a world that is interested in new music — commissioning it, refining it and turning out great performances. It is the world of wind ensembles that are flourishing in most of our larger universities and colleges.
Culturally they may be off the beaten track being part of academia and performing largely on campuses. But in reality they compete very well in musical excellence and numbers of performances compared to symphony orchestras. These worlds are close to my heart and I have written many works for both.
For some time I have felt that I’m off the radar of symphony orchestras, where there is fierce competition for the few slots allotted to new music. Fortunately I don’t miss orchestras, because university students in wind ensembles often play extraordinarily well. The reason for this leap in quality is a different brand of university band conductors in recent years. They are free of the usual band-type traditions and are eager to create and present new repertoire.
Here is a sampling of my inspiring collaborators:
· Frank Battisti (formerly New England Conservatory)
· Gary Green (University of Miami)
· Michael Haithcock (University of Michigan)
· Craig Kirchhoff (University of Minnesota)
· Allan McMurray (newly retired from University of Colorado)
· Mallory Thompson (Northwestern University)
· Glen Adsit (The Hartt School)
· Dan Belongia (Illinois State University)
· Jerry Junkin (University of Texas)
· Sarah McKoin (Texas Tech University)
· Eric Wilson (Baylor University)
· Eugene Corporon (University of North Texas)
· Brian Lamb (Central Oklahoma University)
· Robert Ambrose (Georgia State University)
· Emily Threinen (Temple University)
…. I could go on.
I feel completely at home when visiting these universities, where I often give workshops and talks in combination with performances of my music. Students are refreshing company in these vibrant and creative environments. Some of my recent highlights were:
· Resident composer at New York University in Fredonia with a concert of my ‘Winds of Nagual’ conducted excellently by Paula Holcomb.
· The following week at Georgia State University, where Robert Ambrose conducted an excellent performance of ‘Arctic Dreams.’
Other wind groups that have given top notch performances of my works in the past year are Baylor University and the universities of Central Oklahoma, Illinois State, British Columbia and Toronto. It is very inspiring for this senior composer!
Comparing music at universities and in symphony orchestras may seem useless, because audiences are different and one is a business. However, I strongly encourage people to look for university concerts as very inspiring and easier on your pocketbook — if not free.
Another reason for the high quality of music on campuses is that university wind ensembles can put in more rehearsal hours than symphony orchestras, which offer scant rehearsal time. That is like honey to composers, who gravitate to the wind medium. Also, universities are much more open to experimentation. My most recent piece, “Urban Nocturne” is for solo clarinet, cello, piano, and wind ensemble, to be premiered in April, 2015. It will mark Gary Green’s retirement as Director of Bands at Miami University. At my elder age, I feel excitement and gratitude at being included in this rich musical environment. It would be great to share it with the wider public.