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Category Archives: Summer 2012

2012 was the year of the wind conducting workshop for me.  I went to 5 of them all over the country.  Each was unique in some way, but every one of them introduced me to some wonderful professionals and made me a stronger conductor.  Every one was worth the time, effort, and money required to attend, not to mention the raw emotion and true soul-searching that often come with the experience.  These things are never easy: no matter how much of a glittering past you have, conducting a group you’ve never worked with while big names in your field pick you apart sounds like the stuff of nightmares.  But the payoff outweighs the pain tenfold.  Bottom line, if you have the opportunity to go to any conducting symposium anywhere, do not hesitate: Go!


My first stop was Ball State University, where the band program is run by Thomas Caneva and Shaun Vondran.  They had Craig Kirchhoff from the University of Minnesota in as the clinician, who worked with every conductor twice.  Immediately after your own session, you watched your video with Dr. Vondran, who provided more comments and insights.  This one was over a weekend in February, with the Ball State bands in residence.  A key part of the weekend was a rehearsal and performance of those bands, featuring Dr. Kirchhoff as guest conductor.  A great bonus was the presence that weekend of the composer Steven Bryant, who is currently making big waves with his music for band and electronics.  Repertoire-wise, participants could choose from:

Holst – Hammersmith: Prelude and Scherzo
Turina/Reed – La Procession du Rocio
Strauss – Serenade in E flat, Op. 7
Whitacre – October
Dello Joio – Scenes from “The Louvre”
Jacob – Old Wine in New Bottles
Schuman – Chester
Bernstein – Overture to “Candide”
Grainger – Ye Banks & Braes o’ Bonnie Doon
Schuman – George Washington Bridge


Things really ramped up in the summer, when I resumed my adventures at the CBDNA symposium at the University of Colorado Boulder.  This was a 5-day symposium at which everyone got to conduct members of the CU bands 4 times.  Allan McMurray was the host, along with the rest of his conducting staff, and Gary Hill from Arizona State University came in as the guest clinician.  One of the great features of this workshop was McMurray’s insistence that we study and conduct Copland’s Appalachian Spring in its original 14-instrument form, which includes a double string quartet and bass.  We divided it up so each conductor that day got one part of the piece (I got the prayer at the very end, after the famous variations) allowing both conductors and players to experience the whole thing.  Also wonderful about this was the participation of Gary Lewis, CU Boulder’s orchestra director.  He tagged in for everyone’s conducting session that day, adding to what the other clinicians had to say.  Like at Ball State, there was an opportunity after each session to watch your video and get additional feedback, this time from CU Assistant Director Matthew Roeder.  Beyond the musical experience, the environment was stunning: the Rocky Mountains were omnipresent, and the city of Boulder was an excellent and fun place to spend our (limited) free time.  It was all capped by a trip up into the mountains in which we had time to reflect, bond, and receive further wisdom from the clinicians.  As for the repertoire:

FULL ENSEMBLE (2 or 3 Pieces)
Bernstein – Overture to Candide
Grainger – Lincolnshire Posy or Irish Tune from County Derry
Holst – First Suite or Second Suite
Milhaud: Suite Francaise
Ticheli: Rest or Cajun Folk Songs II
Whitacre: Noisy Wheels of Joy

CHAMBER ENSEMBLE (1 or 2 Pieces)

Beethoven: Octet
Copland: Appalachian Spring Suite
Gounod: Petite Symphonie
Mozart: Serenade in C minor, K 388


My next stop was Northwestern, where Mallory Thompson led a 6-day symposium with her excellent staff, band, and graduate students.  The guest clinician was the legendary H. Robert Reynolds.  He and Dr. Thompson had a wonderful rapport that helped to set an overwhelmingly positive, constructive tone for the otherwise very challenging week.  The band was filled out with the conductors and auditors (this was by far the biggest symposium I went to), so when I was not conducting, I was part of an amazing, 15-person trumpet section.  Somehow, it all balanced out.  There was also a day of chamber music, featuring the Northwestern players exclusively.  One of the unique activities at this symposium was the small group conducting sessions in the morning.  Both conductors and auditors got to conduct our peers in groups of about 15 using reduced versions of standard rep.  The clinicians (Thompson and Reynolds plus Northwestern’s Dr. Tim Robblee) rotated every day to a different group.  This essentially doubled the contact time with each clinician.  The graduate students organized outings to one of Evanston’s many fine establishments every night, so it was possible (though not necessarily advisable) to both work hard and play hard while there.  An unforgettable experience.  Lots of rep here:

Arnold/Paynter – Four Scottish Dances
Bernstein/Grundman – Candide Suite (all movements)
Copland/Patterson – Down A Country Lane
Daehn – As Summer Was Just Beginning
Grainger – Lincolnshire Posy (mvts. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
Grantham – Spangled Heavens
Holst/ed. Matthews – First Suite in E-flat
Shostakovich/Hunsberger – Festive Overture
Strauss/arr. Davis – Allerseelen
Stuart – II.“Ayre for Eventide” from Three Ayres from Gloucester
Ticheli – Nitro
Vinson – Echoes of the Hollow Square (all movements)
Whitacre – Lux Aurumque

Gounod – Petite symphonie
Jacob – Old Wine in New Bottles
Mozart – Serenade No. 11 in E-flat, K.375
Strauss – Serenade in Eb, Op.7
Stravinsky – Octet, Mvt. 1


Immediately on the heels of the long-established Northwestern symposium, I attended the first-ever wind conducting symposium at Temple University, hosted by Dr. Emily Threinen with Michael Haithcock visiting from the University of Michigan.  This was another playing-in-the-band symposium, with a handful of Temple students helping out.  Over 4 days, each conductor got to conduct every day.  There was also a chamber music track, in which 4 conductors (I was not so lucky, unfortunately) spent their mornings rehearsing a chamber group in preparation for a concert at week’s end and getting additional feedback from the clinicians.  During that time, the rest of us had some very valuable morning sessions on topics ranging from free movement to conducting recitative.  This was a nicely varied week that will certainly show up bigger on the radar every year. The repertoire:

Arnold/Paynter – Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo
Chance – Variations on a Korean Folk Song
Dello Joio – Scenes from “The Louvre”
Erickson – Air for Band
Grainger – Irish Tune from County Derry and Lincolnshire Posy
Holst – First Suite in E-flat
Ives – Variations on “America”
Milhaud – Suite Francaise
Persichetti – Psalm for Band
Schuman – Chester
Stuart – Three Ayres from Gloucester
Ticheli – Sun Dance
Whitacre – Sleep
Vaughan Williams – English Folk Song Suite


After a break at the beginning of the school year, I flew down to Georgia for the Columbus State symposium over a weekend in November.  I also went in 2011, and liked it enough to go back again.  In addition to Columbus’s own Jamie Nix, I also got to work with Steve Davis from UMKC and to have another session with Mallory Thompson.  Like Ball State, this symposium involved a concert of the home band featuring the clinicians as guest conductors.  There was also an open rehearsal beforehand.  In a hall where there is seating above and behind the stage, both of these were extremely valuable for a conductor.  Then, in less than 24 hours, each conductor had 3 sessions, including two with large bands and one with a chamber group.  It was a lot of activity packed into a very short period, and well worth the trip.  And it had some fantastic repertoire to choose from:

Chance – Variations on a Korean Folk Song
Del Tredici – Acrostic Song from “Final Alice”
Milhaud – Suite Francaise (Mvts. I, III, IV, or V)
Hahn – Le Bal du Beatrice d’Este (Mvts. I, II, IV, VI, VII)
Weill – Little Threepenny Music
Bernstein – Profanation
Holst – First Suite in E-flat
Whitacre – Sleep

Reflecting back on all of this, I honestly can’t wait to go to another symposium.  At each one, I became intimate with new repertoire that I may otherwise never have conducted.  I met amazing people, not just the 16 conductors I got to work with, but the MANY people whom I now count as friends among my fellow participants (and who I hope are reading this!).  Seriously, I must have met nearly 100 new people this year just through these things.  And I was constantly inspired by their musicianship.  I am much more in touch with my own musicianship and my conducting now.  This year’s experiences will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life.


Columbia Summer Winds had a terrific (if stormy) 2012 season!  You can see a lot more about that group at the website (click the link on the name).  Here’s a sketch of what we did:


FUNDRAISER!  Tuesday, May 29 at 7pm at the Village Pourhouse, Amsterdam Avenue at 109th Street.  We raised almost an entire concert’s worth of expenses, thanks to the many band members and other friend who came.  This will definitely happen again.

Central Park Bandshell – Sat., July 28 – 1pm – RAINED OUT

Union Square – Wed., August 8 – 6pm – AWESOME

Governors Island – Sat., August 11 – 2pm – CANCELLED due to threat of rain.  There was no rain within 24 hours on either side of this time.

Washington Square Park – Sat., August 18 – 2pm – AMAZING


For all of these, we played the same repertoire.  Check it out here (in concert order, for the curious):

Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) by Patrick Burns

March from Symphonic Metamorphosis by Paul Hindemith, arr. Keith Wilson

Serenade by Derek Bourgeois

Symphony no. 3: Slavyanskaya by Boris Kozhevnikov

Variations on “America” by Charles Ives, arr. William Rhoads, based on William Schuman’s orchestration

The Wizard of Oz by Harold Arlen, arr. James Barnes

1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, arr. Mayhew Lake

The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa


We also ran our 2nd Biennial Outdoor Composition Contest:

A Summer Breeze – J. Scott McKenzie

Seize the Day – Noah D. Taylor
The Adventurers – Barry Milner


Finally, I attended a whole ton of conducting workshops: CU Boulder, Northwestern, and Temple.  All were great!

Derek Bourgeois (b. 1941) is a British composer of music for all sorts of ensembles large and small.  He has written over 300 compositions, including 72 symphonies.  Serenade is a relatively early work (opus 22, 1965).  Says the composer:

Derek Bourgeois wrote this Serenade for his own wedding, to be played by the organist as the guests left the ceremony. Not wishing to allow them the luxury of proceeding in an orderly 2/4, the composer wrote the work in 11/8, and in case anyone felt too comfortable, he changed it to 13/8 in the middle! The work has now been released in a number of different orchestrations of the original version for organ.

Here is the band version (created by the composer in 1980) in performance:

And, for context, here’s the organ original:

Derek Bourgeois has his own website with a lot of information about himself and his music.

This summer, Columbia Summer Winds is taking a trip over the rainbow, down the yellow brick road, to the Emerald City.  James Barnes’s arrangement of Harold Arlen’s famous tunes is so ravishingly good, it almost makes it sound like they were originally written for band.  Here it is, performed by the Alabama All-State Red Band (in a gymtorium – what does that say about Alabama?) in a truly fine 2007 performance:

I’m not sure what I can possibly add to the mountain of Wizard of Oz knowledge that’s out there.  So here are a few highlights:

The movie vs. the book on Wikipedia.

There are too many spin-offs of The Wizard of Oz to even conceive of naming, but here are a few.  L. Frank Baum, the author of the original book, wrote two sequels himself, Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (which was itself reinterpreted as a comic in 2010).  These two together spawned a nightmare-inducing movie sequel by Disney in 1985.  But most spin-offs come from the original.  There’s the 2005 Muppet version, and the crummy, steampunky Syfy version (how is it so bad with Alan Cumming and Zoey Deschanel?!) from 2007.   There’s the 1995 book and the 2003 musical (not to mention the band arrangementWicked, which recasts the Wicked Witch of the West as the misunderstood protagonist.  There’s also 1978’s the Wiz, which retells the tale through the lense of African American culture.  These two musicals have given us a treasure of excellent music.  But none of these have come close to rivaling the beloved status or the cultural pervasiveness of the original 1939 film.

For those who have spent their lives under a rock: The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy Gale, who lives on a grey farm in Kansas.  She wants to see what’s over the rainbow.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, a tornado comes to town and sweeps her, her house, and her dog, Toto, to Oz, where everything is in brilliant color.  Her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny.  The Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, hail her as a hero and tell her to follow the yellow-brick road to the Wizard of Oz in Emerald City if she wants to get home.  Before she leaves, they give her the Wicked Witch of the East’s ruby slippers.  Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, who needs a brain, the Tin Man, who lacks a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who lacks courage.  Together, they travel to the Emerald City, only to be told by the mysterious and powerful Wizard that they have to kill the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get their wishes granted.  The Witch captures them.  When all seems lost, Dorothy throws water on the Witch, causing her to melt away.  They return to the Wizard, only to find that he’s just an ordinary guy from Omaha with no powers at all.  Still, he makes things right, and in the end, everyone gets home.

Here’s the iconic performance of the film: Judy Garland sings “Over the Rainbow”:

Finally, I have to mention my favorite Oz-related thing: Play the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon along with the movie (sound off, of course), and a great many interesting coincidences happen!  They call this phenomenon Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Patrick Burns (b. 1969) is an American composer and music educator.  He has written extensively for wind bands at all levels.  He founded the Bloomfield Youth Band in New Jersey when he was 17, and continues to direct that group today.   He teaches at Montclair State University and New Jersey City University.  His compositions, which range from beginning band to professional level,  have been performed on at least 3 continents.  He has received commissions from around the country.  He is much in demand as a guest conductor and clinician.

Burns offers his own program notes on Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem):

Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) is a short, energetic work which was written in a ten-day period in January 2008.  Commissioned as a concert opener by the Westlake High School (CA) Wind Ensemble for the group’s performance at Carnegie Hall, the piece musically symbolizes the opportunities which lie before us in our lives and the spirit with which we strive to realize our dreams.  Each day presents a new chance for us to make the most of every moment with energy, passion, and optimism.

Patrick Burns main website. – includes a full biography and information on all of his music.  You can also leave the website open as it automatically plays a random sampling of Burns’s music.  He’s written a lot of it, and it’s all good!  For our purposes, though, check out especially the “music” page, where you can download a free recording of Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) in the grade 4 section.

Also check out Patrick Burns’s YouTube channel, which has performances of the great bulk of his music.  Here, for instance, is Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) as performed by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds.  Heads up, it’s a TOUCH faster than the composer has asked for.

So where does this famous bit of Latin come from?  Check it out here.

The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E-flat Major, Op. 42, more conventionally known as the 1812 Overture, may be one of the most recognized pieces of Western art music.  Tchaikovsky wrote it in 1880 on a commission for performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  It was intended to be part of a festival to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1812 Battle of Borodino, in which Russian forces turned back Napolean’s invading Grande Armee outside Moscow.  This was an utterly improbable victory: the French forces were well-trained, battle-hardened, and large, numbering around 150,000. They had state-of-the-art artillery, and they had never lost a battle.  The Russians had no hope of matching them on any level.   However, the French were exhausted from a long campaign, while the Russians had their people from which to draw reserves.  Both sides suffered heavy casualties during the battle, but the French ultimately felt their losses more profoundly.  The Russians, though, were forced to retreat from Moscow.  Yet in doing so, they burned a large portion of the city, denying the French quarter in the cold.  A deep freeze set in, which froze much of the French artillery to the ground.  At this point, the Russians were able to force a retreat of the exhausted French forces, turning their own artillery against them.  Only about 23,000 Frenchmen made it back across the Russian border.

The 1812 Overture portrays the events in and around that battle.  It opens with a hymn based on the Russian Orthodox Troparion of the Holy Cross as the Russian people, hearing of the impending invasion, pray for deliverance.  Tense preparations for battle follow.  The French can be heard approaching to the tune of La Marseillaise, which grows ever more prominent as they gain the upper hand in battle.  A folk dance (“At the gate, at my gate”) comes in, depicting the Tsar appealing to his people to join the cause.  The battle continues with the French still dominating, followed by more appeals to the people.  With Moscow burning, the tide finally turns as the opening hymn returns punctuated by icy woodwind scales, heralding divine intervention by deep freeze in the Russians’ favor.  The famous finale features scored cannon shots and clanging bells, meant to reflect the Russian appropriation of the French artillery and the celebratory ringing of church bells at the conclusion of the battle.

Tchaikovsky was a rather miserable fellow, and that is evident in his feelings about this piece, which he saw as little more than a vapid propaganda exercise.  There are some truly choice quotes in this discussion of his correspondence relating to the 1812 Overture.  My favorite: “It is impossible to set about without repugnance such music which is destined for the glorification of something that, in essence, delights me not at all.”

Here’s a rousing recording, complete with pealing bells and roaring cannons at the end:

1812 Overture on Wikipedia, the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra,, and the Hollywood Bowl.

A nice article from 2003 about how this Russian overture became an American 4th of July tradition.

Tchaikovsky info on DSO Kids, wikipedia, and Tchaikovsky Research.

The 1812 Overture has inspired countless pop culture responses.  Here are just a few:

Vodafone made an ad in which they used 1000 cellphones to recreate the finale of 1812.

An online game in which you fire cannonballs at the conductor.

A Subway commercial uses the finale music to good comic effect.

In case you were wondering, I do not endorse any of the stuff in these commercials.

Boris Kozhevnikov (1906-1985) was a prolific composer of music for Soviet bands.  He attended the Kharkov Music-Dramatic Institute, where he studied composition and conducting, graduating in 1933.  He later attended the Military School of Music in Moscow.  He was the conductor at several theaters and a faculty member of the Moscow Conservatory.  He wrote a handful of orchestral works and over 70 pieces for Soviet military bands, including 5 numbered symphonies for band.  His music was discovered by the west only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain in the 1990s.  He is still much better known in Russia than anywhere else, although his Symphony no. 3, Slavyanskaya, enjoys popularity in the US thanks to an edition that former Marine Band commander John R. Bourgeois created for American bands in 1995.

Slavyanskaya is a fairly conventional Russian-sounding symphony in four movements.  The first is at times aggressive and lyrical, opening with a strong F-minor declamation.  The second is a slow waltz with an exuberant episode in its coda.  A spritely piccolo solo opens the 3rd movement, a rondo which whizzes by at lightning speed.  The fourth movement is an exuberant finale.  Throughout the symphony, Kozhevnikov uses folk tunes from his native city of Novgorod as the sources of his melodic material.  Although Kozhevnikov wrote Slavyanskaya in 1950, it did not receive its first performance in the US until the late 1990s.

The word “Slavyanskaya” in Russian (Славянская) appears to be nothing more than a proper name.  It’s also applied to a public square in Moscow, a fancy Radisson hotel also in Moscow, and a Russian brand of vodka.

There are bits and pieces about Kozhevnikov and his music, especially Slavyanskaya, at, the University of North Texas Digital Library, and J. W. Pepper.

Here’s the definitive American performance of Slavyanskaya.  It’s “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band conducted by John R. Bourgeois, who edited the piece for American bands and was the first to conduct it in the US.

Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26.  In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim.  Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.

Here are some well-researched program notes on Stars & stripes from the Band Music PDF Library.

Stars and Stripes Forever (march) is considered the finest march ever written, and the same time one of the most patriotic ever conceived.  As reported in the Philedelphia Public Ledger (May 15, 1897) “… It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” (referring to the concert the Sousa Band gave the previous day at the Academy of Music). (Research done by Elizabeth Hartman, head of the music department, Free Library of Philadelphia.  [Quote] taken from John Philip Sousa, Descriptive Catalog of his Works (Paul E. Bierley, University of Illinois Press, 1973, page 71)).

The march was not quite so well received though and actually got an over average rating for a new Sousa march.  Yet, its popularity grew as Mr. Sousa used it during the Spanish-American War as a concert closer.  Coupled with his Trooping of the Colors, the march quickly gained a vigorous response from audiences and critics alike.  In fact, audiences rose from their chairs when the march was played.  Mr. Sousa added to the entertainment value of the march by having the piccolo(s) line up in front of the band for the final trio, and then added the trumpets and trombones [to] join them on the final repeat of the strain.

The march was performed on almost all of Mr. Sousa’s concerts and always drew tears to the eyes of the audience.  The author has noted the same emotional response of audiences to the march today.  The march has been named as the national march of the United States.

There are two commentaries of how the march was inspired.  The first came as the result of an interview on Mr. Sousa’s patriotism.  According to Mr. Sousa, the march was written with the inspiration of God.

“I was in Europe and I got a cablegram that my manager was dead.  I was in Italy and I wished to get home as soon as possible.  I rushed to Genoa, then to Paris and to England and sailed for America.  On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as i walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul.  I wrote in on Christmas Day, 1896.” (Taken from program notes for the week beginning August 19th, 1923.  Bierley, John Philip Sousa, page 71.)

Researched by Marcus L. Neiman, Medina, Ohio


The wikipedia article on Stars & Stripes is bit thin on references, but it does allow you to listen to a vintage recording of Sousa himself conducting the march, from 1909.  The Stars & Stripes page at the Dallas Wind Symphony has other old recordings and Sousa’s original lyrics for the march.

Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”

Sousa shrine – including biography, complete works, and much more – at the Dallas Wind Symphony website.

John Philip Sousa on Wikipedia

Stars & Stripes is one of many Sousa marches (and other pieces by turn of the 19th-20th century composers) available at the Band Music PDF Library for free.  I encourage any enterprising band directors to take a look.

Check out this legit performance of Stars & Stripes, courtesy of the President’s Own United States Marine Band.  If you don’t like the conductor’s very informative monologue, skip to the performance at around 1:00.

Now, the Muppets’ take on Stars & Stripes:

Finally, an inspiring trombone choir version:

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was an influential German composer who explored the fringes of tonality through his music and who was teacher to many a great name in composition.  He grew up and began his career in Germany, but a complicated relationship with the Nazi regime in the 1930s sent him elsewhere.  During that period, he was invited to Turkey, where he helped to reorganize the music education system there.  In 1940, he emigrated to the United States, where he taught primarily at Yale University.  He became an American citizen in 1946, but moved to Zurich in 1953, where he remained for the rest of his life.  He developed his own system of tonality that was not diatonic, but which ranks musical intervals from most-consonant to most-dissonant while still relying on a tonal center.  While this approach sounds purely academic, it resulted in playful, accessible music in Hindemith’s hands.  He was very interested in understanding instrumental technique, to the point that he is said to have learned to play every one of his instrumental sonatas (and there are many, including trumpet, clarinet, trombone, harp, tuba, flute, violin, viola, and bass) on the instrument for which he wrote it.

The Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber came into being in 1943, while Hindemith was living in America.  He was first invited to arrange the music for a ballet on Weber’s themes.  That project fell through when it became clear that he and the choreographer, Leonide Massine, did not see eye to eye.  This left Hindemith free to take Weber’s source material in the direction he pleased.  He used themes from Weber’s little-known piano duets and from his incidental music for the play Turandot, which had also inspired Puccini’s famous opera.  Hindemith casts the Symphonic Metamorphosis in four movements.  The final “March” made its way into the band repertoire in 1950 when the director of bands at Yale, Keith Wilson, completed his arrangement.

The original orchestral version conducted by the composer himself:

And the version we’ll be playing, arranged by former Yale band director Keith Wilson:

Find out more about Hindemith at Wikipedia, the Hindemith Foundation, Schott Publishing, and DSO Kids.

Read up on the Symphonic Metamorphosis at Wikipedia and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Charles Ives (1874-1954) was a composer and businessman from Danbury, Connecticut. He never made his living from his compositions, instead making a fortune in life insurance.  The unusual nature of this dual life paralleled his music, which not only defied but brazenly toppled the conventions of his era.  For instance, it is at times bitonal, often disjointed, and occassionally reflects the sound of two musical ensembles playing at the same time at a distance from each other. Ives’s music was largely ignored by all but a precious few fans during his lifetime.  However, his receipt of the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his Symphony no. 3 made the music world begin to take him seriously.  He has posthumously attained a reputation as among the finest of all American composers of all time.

Ives scholar Jan Swafford summarizes Ives’s influence and importance thusly:

For all his singularity, the Yankee maverick Charles Ives is among the most representative of American artists. Optimistic, idealistic, fiercely democratic, he unified the voice of the American people with the forms and traditions of European classical music. The result, in his most far-reaching work, is like nothing ever imagined before him: music at once unique and as familiar as a tune whistled in childhood, music that can conjure up the pandemonium of a small-town Fourth of July or the quiet of a New England church, music of visionary spirituality built from the humblest materials–an old gospel hymn, a patriotic tune, a sentimental parlor song. The way in which Ives pursued his goal of a democratic art, and his career of creating at the highest level of ambition while making a fortune in the life insurance business, perhaps could only have happened in the United States. And perhaps only there could such an isolated, paradoxical figure make himself into a major artist.

This is just the beginning of Swafford’s fabulous short biographical essay on Ives, which can be found here.

Swafford’s essay is just a taste of the treasure trove of information available at the Charles Ives Society website.

More on Ives from Wikipedia.

Biography with a link to an essay about the influence of Ives’s father, George, a local bandmaster.

One more biographical essay from

Ives wrote Variations on America at age 17 when he was the organist for a local church.  Despite its early origin, it still contains many characteristics of the Ives sound: unapologetic bitonality, themes of patriotism, some sense of playfulness and optimism.  American composer and Lincoln Center president William Schuman transcribed the original organ work for orchestra in 1962, after which it was transcribed for band in short order by William Rhoads.

A concise program note on the orchestral version.

The University of Michigan Concert Band plays Variations on America.

The original organ version performed by flamboyant organ virtuoso Virgil Fox: