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Grade 3 for Band

May 8, 2009

First things first: the Festival of Winds honor band students this past weekend in Conway were great, and joyfully endured an all-day grueling rehearsal schedule, followed by a great concert that night. Several of them had even stayed up the entire night before for Prom, and still performed admirably. It was quite an experience for me, too – I’d never done a full honor band, conducting (nearly) all the pieces, from beginning to end. This was also my debut conducting someone else’s music – namely Eric’s Sleep. I thought it all came together wonderfully at the concert that night. I also had the great pleasure of conducting Dusk with the Little Rock Wind Symphony, who were superb. Huge “thank you” to Karen Fannin, the various section leaders, and Hendrix students who organized and ran the day so smoothly. I really enjoyed myself, and it’s an added pleasure to get to perform my music at “home” (now that I’ve traveled and lived in numerous far-flung places, 30 miles from where I grew up counts as “home”).

Now that I’m back in Austin, I’m madly beating my head against a compositional brick wall trying to figure out how this next piece will sound. Composing is never effortless, but there’s a special, particular challenge in writing works for small high school ensembles in that fabled “grade 3” category. The added challenge this time is that this work is being commissioned by a mixed consortium of schools (in Nebraska), ranging from some tiny high school groups through several college ensembles. Finding a solution that is 1) playable and enjoyable for the smallest, least experienced group, 2) challenging and interesting to the most advanced, college group, and 3) music that I’m still fascinated with myself, is proving to be quite a test. I have a number of ideas I’m fleshing out, but still not sure any one of them is the Right Idea. Regardless, the premiere will be on November 19th at the NMEA convention, by Carolyn Barber and the Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Wind Ensemble.

Which is why I shouldn’t be procrastinating here on the blog!

A much more productive procrastinating activity will the UT Wind Ensemble concert tonight. Composer Carter Pann is in town, playing his new piano concerto with the group tonight. We took him out for his first Trudy’s experience last night, and then piled on the Amy’s Ice Cream. Hopefully he now has enough calories to make it through the concert tonight…