I know I’ve been way overdue for a new post on the blog, way overdue. So…before I can find the time to actually post some things about my recent Kansas State/U of Nebraska residencies and other wind band doings, I will leave you to view one of my favorite Christmas videos on YouTube.
Thanks to Mark Custom Recording I was able to get an advanced copy of the 2011 Texas All-State Symphonic Band’s TMEA performance of “Rio’s Convergence” for promotional purposes. Newly added link is in the Wind Ensemble section of the Music page.
The young, talented musicians in the ensemble did a fantastic job learning a brand new work that had never been performed before in just a few short days. For the most part, the wind band programs performed at TMEA are filled with works that have been played many times before by ensembles across the country, many of which have been previously learned and performed by the musicians in the All-State groups.
In the rare case when a work is actually commissioned for and premiered by a Texas All-State wind band it makes it much more difficult for the players to get to a level of mastery when they’re given only three days to rehearse. I was very impressed with all of the musicians in this year’s 4A Symphonic Band. As a collective ensemble they went from 0 to 100 in such a short amount of time and proved why music education in this country needs continual support.
Music has consistently played a priceless role in human civilization – I am aware of no culture, past or present, that has achieved any measurable significant value without music having played a major role in that achievement.
Music soothes the soul (well, most music anyway).
Good news(!) – I’ve been invited to design and present a clinic at the 2011 Texas Bandmasters Association Convention in San Antonio. I’ll be presenting this clinic alongside friend and conductor Abel Ramirez. Having returned from the TMEA Convention in San Antonio only a few short weeks ago, where Rio’s Convergence was given its world premiere by the Texas All-State 4A Symphonic Band, I’m really excited to return in July for the largest annual bandmasters convention in the United States.
When I was in San Antonio for TMEA last month I was greeted by 19 degree weather – lovely. With the TBA convention taking place in July I’ll be prepared for 119 degrees! Will be really nice (my freshman high school teacher told me never to use that word when writing, oh well, I learned nothing) to see a bustling San Antonio this time around. The cold last month kept a lot of people from enjoying the River Walk and the Alamo (but not the bars).
I haven’t yet met with Abel to discuss the nuts and bolts of what and how we’re going to present, but I know it’s going to be a great clinic. Abel is so passionate about music and conducting and I just love the idea of diving into one of the great mysteries of the musical world – that ever-so-delicate relationship between composer and conductor. The delicate nature of this often dysfunctional relationship can be summed up by this hilarious experience I will never forget:
I was at concert years ago at the LA Phil’s former home, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Children’s concert on a Sunday, great program – Prokofiev (I’ll let you guess which piece), Copland and a piece written by a living composer, the name I won’t mention as he was present at the concert. Conductor (also no mentioning of the name, but not Salonen) gets on the mic before the Phil plays the piece – “today’s tempo was chosen by the composer, not by me.”
Would love to have been at the rehearsals for that one.
The truth is, collaboration between composer and conductor isn’t all that difficult to navigate, especially if both parties are lovers of music and list the idea of always striving for a masterpiece as the number one goal. Unfortunately many conductors AND composers don’t check their egos at the door, or even attempt to.
We all have egos, but making music demands that you minimize it, especially, for example, if you’re a composer and you’re trying to communicate exactly what you want in your music with a conductor who 1) didn’t write the piece 2) needs to learn your musical language before he or she can truly interpret the piece, and 3) has thoughts of their own on how the music can and should be interpreted. This is a collaboration and a creation, not an ego-fest.
At any rate, I’m going to post something much more lengthy down the road as the clinic nears. Will be kind of a package of online presentation through my blog in conjunction with the actual clinic in Texas.
In the meantime, I’m about to start a new work for wind band – thinking about adapting 52nd Street Chorale which I composed for the Los Angeles Brass Ensemble. This could work very well for wind band given the right orchestration. More about that soon…
I’m still going back and forth on whether or not I want YouTube videos to play a significant role on the website, but in the meantime I think this video is a must share.
The performance by the MGM Orchestra is astounding. Every player “goes for it” – the type of “going for it” that is a lost art in many ensembles these days. Not to mention the recording quality is damn good. When I was out in Texas last week at TMEA working with some of the state’s finest young musicians one of the fundamental philosophies I tried to embed in their approach to performance practice was this notion of “going for it.”
Personally, when it comes to flubs, cracks, missed notes, whatever you want to call them, I prefer huge ones. If you’re going to miss, miss big. Some of my favorite recordings of all time have enormous, kick-you-in-the-face performance mistakes, that for whatever reason were left in by the producer.
If you’re going to miss, miss big.
Recap of the 2011 TMEA Convention is a little delayed, been kind of a crazy week since I got back. I’ve been running around with my head cut off trying to follow up with the many wonderful people I met while I was in San Antonio. Not to mention I still can’t figure out how to make these dang blog post pictures appear larger in size in the post. It’s probably some .css style thing in the theme coding, who knows? Every time I try a new pixel setting it doesn’t work. Good thing I didn’t go into website development, although, I’m sure the money is better than the shillings we get paid as composers!
When I arrived in San Antonio I couldn’t believe how cold it was, even for February. 19 degrees F ain’t bad compared to Green Bay in the middle of winter, but I grew up at the beach on the West Coast. I ended up staying at the Marriot TowneSuites, nice place – they comped my first night because the bed had been slept in by some random whoever between the last person checking out and me checking in. Probably some staff member looking for a place to take a nap. First spent some time at the Hyatt bar speaking with composers Frank Ticheli and John Mackey. I eventually made my way over to the Marriot River Center bar that night with Dr. Abel Ramirez (the man who commissioned and conducted “Rio’s Convergence”) and met and spent time with some serious heavy weight names in the wind band world including Kevin Sedatole of Michigan St. Univeristy, Chuck Young (TMEA Band Vice-President) and Ronnie Rios of Harlingen High School in Texas. The margaritas made for an interesting night.
Woke up the next morning ready for another 3 nights of margaritas and headed down to the rehearsal room where the Texas All-State 4A Symphonic Band would be rehearsing “Rio’s Convergence” as well as a new arrangement of the traditional “Huapango” by Moncayo that Abel Ramirez and I put together. Abel Ramirez was on fire that day at rehearsal. And for any of you out there that wonder if his rehearsal technique and tone of attitude is only like this at the big conventions, think again, he’s full of passion and energy 110% of the time.
The trombone section was rockin’. Samantha Owens, playing lead at the front of the picture, had a great sound. The trombone unison sound was spectacular, especially at those moments in the music where they could really let loose. Such a big sound that even the 21 trumpets in the band had a hard time poking out in the texture from time to time!
Emily Walters, Tyler Neufer and Branden Guess (the first 3 horn players in the section) set the tone for a great section sound. I had the pleasure of working with the horns in a short sectional. The focus was playing with confidence and hearing the music before playing it. For any young horn players reading this, the horn is meant to sound glorious – there is no other unison section sound that comes even close!
From time to time I would sneak out of rehearsal and go next door to listen to and watch with 5A Concert Band which Kevin Sedatole (pictured in the rear) was conducting. He conducted a wonderful program which included Don Grantham’s wind band staple “Southern Harmony” and John Mackey’s romp of a piece, “Asphalt Cocktail.” Kevin is a fantastic conductor and it was obvious that the musicians in the band performed well as a result.
Back to the 4A Symphonic Band rehearsal where the saxophone section was, to my surprise, filled with a large number of players that play both classical and jazz. That worked out well for “Rio’s Convergence” as there are some true jazz moments utilizing block scoring. Lead alto, Quinn Taylor, led the section well and they sounded great!
The percussion section had some wonderful talent in it. There is nothing quite like a well-oiled percussion section when the music lets it run free. I had a great time working with these guys. The one sectional we had was fun, always a challenge with percussion though as counting becomes even more important when the band isn’t there to give them any reference. Well done percussion!
The trumpets. Enough said.
I love this picture of Abel Ramirez conducting with such vigor as conductor extraordinaire Jerry Junkin of UT Austin looks on in the background. To quote Darth Vader, “Impressive. Most impressive.” It’s pretty incredible what Jerry Junkin has accomplished in his career already, and he has decades, DECADES left of more to come. You can almost feel it in your bones when he walks into a room.
And yes, what would the San Antonio River Walk be without a McDonald’s just above it? You want clogged arteries? French fries in your stomach that take 2 years to digest? Chicken McNuggets that are made from puppy dog tails? MickeyDs is your place.
I finally had a few minutes (30 to be exact) of down time the last day I was there. I ran down to the Alamo, which I had never been to before, to take some pictures, hoping that there would be some good weather and sunshine. Well, I got good weather, sunshine and a whole lot of Civil War reenacting! I guess when you’re from California your community doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to Civil War history, as fascinating as it is. Texas? Well, that’s a completely different thing. So…here we go, some of my favorite pictures from the Alamo, as brought to you by 21st - 19th Century Southern soldiers.
Had to photograph these playing cards. The only thing I could think of was Doc Holliday taking some Cowboy to the cleaners over a game of poker, with lots of whiskey and the occasional coughing up of blood…ok, bad joke…maybe.
And here we have the sheriff keeping a watchful eye just in case Texas decides to secede from the union again. Looks to me like he’s ready to draw!
This guy really does look like he was transported from the 19th century just for this reenactment. A little on the pale side? Maybe he only eats bread and porridge.
I’m a Yankee Doddle Dandy, I need no sign to remind me.
This “Join Today” sign was one of my favorite pieces of the whole event. What more could you ask from the tourists there to watch? I think I saw some kid trying to join the Rebellion, his father never told him the Civil War ended a few years ago.
“Hahahahaha. Now kids, guns are to be treated with respect.” I want a hat just like that one. I think Disneyland has one just like that for sale, next to the Indiana Jones ride.
“Son, did you just try and shoot your brother?”
Now, this is my kind of army. Raggedy and ready to fight. Men, the TMEA Convention is just down the road. Where can I find outfits like these?
Back to the Convention. The 4A Symphonic Band spent very little time rehearsing “Rios Convergence” but they did an amazing job preparing it. The young, talented players all came together and the performance went very well. The Lila Cockrell Theatre was recently rebuilt – good acoustics and very attractive inside. Last year at TMEA there was no theatre so the All-State bands had to perform in the convention center ballrooms. The wait was worth it I think.
You can see Chuck Young (TMEA Band Vice-President) at the front (the only one facing the camera). Chuck is not only an extremely genuine man, he’s out of control funny. His jokes will stick with you for life. Thanks Chuck for the timely humor!
I owe Abel Ramirez a pretty significant debt for commissioning and premiering “Rio’s Convergence” at TMEA. It’s apparently very rare when a work is commissioned for one of the All-State bands with the intention of the music receiving its premiere at the annual Convention. Abel and I had a great time during the meet and greet after the show. Always nice to meet the parents of these young musicians to thank them for supporting their child’s decision to pursue music.
Abel and I with flutist, Emma DeCaro.
With Rob Fuller, one of the fantastic tuba players that gave the band some serious sound down low.
I attended the final TMEA dinner on Saturday night with many of the most respected musicians in the wind band world. I finally had a chance to meet Maestro Gary Green of the University of Miami – he conducted an amazing program with the 5A Symphonic Band. He opened with Michael Daughtery’s “Lost Vegas” and closed with the chop-killer “Symphony No. 4” by Maslanka. This piece by itself is a whole program! And in the middle was John Mackey’s “Hymn to a Blue Hour” which I thought was very beautiful.
For me, one of the highlights of the whole TMEA Convention was the opportunity I had to visit with Richard Floyd (Texas State Director of Music) about not only my music, but music in general. Not only did he have some very helpful and encouraging things to say, he proved to me why we as humans should still aspire to be better. His is a true gentleman and a living, breathing history of the wind band. Hope to learn much more from this man.
After the final TMEA dinner Abel Ramirez and I headed over to the famous Mi Tierra Café. Wow, the margaritas at this place were unbelievable. I forgot to ask for the recipe, but it probably goes something like this:
9 parts tequila
.5 parts margarita mix
.5 parts knock you on your ass
The ranchero sauce on the steak and eggs beat me up a little bit, but worth the pain.
All in all my time at TMEA was extremely memorable. I can’t wait to come back and hopefully I’ll be at TBA in July this year. There is truly no place like Texas, and more to the point, no place in the world like the Texas Music Educators.
Just one more day until the Texas All-State 4A Symphonic Band premiere’s Rio’s Convergence at TMEA.
Today’s rehearsal with the group went really well – very impressed with the brass players’ ability to endure a total of 7 hours of relentless chops distruction in one day. I didn’t exactly compose easy brass parts, however, did get some compliments from the musicians on ”having fun parts to play.” That made me feel good – I remember loathing certain music in high school due to the unbelievably boring and poorly constructed parts. I told many of the musicians on the way out that they need to suck down as many bananas as possible before tomorrow.
Yep, bananas are good for both monkeys and brass players!
Flew into a surprisingly cold San Antonio last night. Connected in Dallas/Ft. Worth – had to be the coldest airport I’ve ever been in.
Hung out at the Hyatt bar for a bit last night, fun chatting with composers Frank Ticheli and John Mackey. Had to leave though pretty quickly as trying to get a cocktail waitress for some food and drink proved impossible. The Marriot Riverfront had plenty o’ servers to maintain our margaritas.
I’ll be attending some of the 4A Symphonic Band rehearsals today – the ensemble will be opening their program with my new work “Rio’s Convergence.” Come by and find me either there or at the J.W. Pepper booth (who is selling the work at the convention). I’ll be at the Pepper booth on and off through the convention – stop by and say hello!
Well, it’s not much of a site right now but it’s a start! If you’ve frequented the Los Angeles Brass Ensemble’s website at all you probably have already noticed a similarity (as in, almost identical) in website theme. So much for originality, eh?
I’ll be adding a lot more content over the next few weeks as I attempt to organize the dusty scores in my office. Some of the scores were done in such archaic notation software that I’m probably better off scanning in the hand written versions of most of my scores and posting them here. I like hand written scores better anyway, more personality.
Short post today, stay tuned as my official home on the Internet develops!