SUNDAY, JULY 11, 2010
I am so thankful for all of the work that the band has put into this last years' programs. My goodness, the band sounds great!!! The concert at Covenant was the icing on the cake. You guys are terrific. Please pick up your horns from time to time during the summer. I look forward to seeing all of you in late August.
On Choosing Literature for the Band
When I program the music for this group, I take in consideration such factors (in order of priority) as: esthetics, audience accessibility, musical growth opportunity and technical difficulty. I realize that choosing music in such a way baffles many folks sometimes.
As a band director in the Texas public school system, I used to chose literature based first on what the band could do (from the state list, of course). Additionally I have always felt that musicians do best when challenged just beyond their capabilities. So, I used to choose literature based on technique first and all else later.
Now that I am older and the band is made up of mostly adullt amateur musicians, however, I look at the priorities over and again, I weigh the spirit of this band against the list, and I can't help but to feel that the priorities are right - even more so when one looks at art for art's sake. The price that we pay for this is the occasional heartache of working a piece and then finding out that it is impossible to put it together in time for the concert. This has happened with scratched pieces like El Salon Mexico, Outdoor Overture, the 5th movement of Kije, Circus Polka, Ghost Train, etc. Sometimes I decide to perform pieces that are close to performance quality but are not there yet, like: American in Paris, Carmina Burana, Tam O'Shanter, Danse Macabre, Tulsa, etc. I do so when I believe that the group truly can demonstrate to the audience that we "get it" even though there are rough spots. I also realize that some of you do not agree with this practice and you have demonstrated much patience with me in this matter. For this I am truly grateful.
The reward from such an approach, then, is the joy of performing masterworks (and some less-than-masterworks) which would have never been considered if the generic, Bb, I'd-better-get-a-I approach had been followed. This is what has happened with The Pines of Rome, Jupiter, Kije, Colas Breugnon, Elsa's Procession, Manzoni Requiem, Poet and Peasant Overture, Pineapple Poll and many more. From an esthetics perspective, I must say that conducting such pieces with you and bringing them to an audience is immensely more rewarding (scary too) than any other musical endeavor that I have undertaken in my 35-or-so years in music. I hope that when Satchmo said: "There is two kinds of music: the good and bad. I play the good kind" this is what he meant. It is toward pieces that stir one's spirit (technique notwithstanding) in which I wish to devote my energy. I know that most of you share the same love for this process as I do while we may disagree on the details.
This last point is where I am truly at a loss for words. To describe what it feels to have you, my friends, demonstrate such trust in me that you are willing to step off this proverbial cliff with me is impossible. This is only a small part of what makes this group is unique. It's not just about music. Pablo Casals said "The most important thing about music is what is not in the notes". I will add that the most important thing about this band in particular is what is not in the music. It is our inner transformation, certain transcendence, if you will that many of us seek. I see it happening in us and this makes me very happy. This, I believe, is what Rick Glascock was working toward and is the ultimate reason why I became the music director of ACWE.