Skip navigation

Category Archives: Young Musician’s Summer Academy

Larry Daehn (b. 1939) is a composer, teacher, and music educator from Wisconsin.  Daehn’s program notes for As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) (1994) are moving and descriptive, so I defer to him:

I liken him to a kind of star, or a comet that fell through the sky, and everybody talks about it yet today. – Julie Harris

He seems to capture that moment of youth … where we’re all desperately seeking to find ourselves. – Dennis Hopper

He is not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged but beautiful soul of our time. – Andy Warhol

James Byron Dean (1931 – 1955) experienced the brightest and briefest movie career ever. In 16 months he made three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Only the first had been released when he was killed in a car accident at age 24. His death on September 30, 1955, sparked an unparalleled outpouring of sorrow. For three years after his death, Warner Brothers received more letters to him than to any living actor.

And the James Dean phenomenon has never really ended. Thousands still come to the little town of Fairmount, Indiana, to see the farm where he grew up and to visit his grave there. His familiar image appears worldwide on posters and T-shirts. He has been the subject of many books, songs, TV documentaries, plays, movies, and hundreds of magazine articles. Forty years after his death, James Dean is still a hero to his own generation and to succeeding generations who keep his legend alive.

People were robbed of him. Whenever you’re robbed of something, it lingers with you. – Martin Landau

A bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall stands near Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, California. There is a Greek inscription on the right shoulder which, when translated reads, “As Summer Was Just Beginning.” This sentiment, from a painting by John La Farge, is a Greek epitaph concerning the death of a young person. I chose it as the title for this piece.

I loosely based the main melody (heard at the beginning and at measures 33 and 57) on an old British Isles folksong, “The Winter it is past, and the Summer’s here at last.” I chose it because Dean’s Quaker heritage goes back to England, Ireland and Scotland, and because this simple bittersweet song about summer seemed appropriate for remembering James Dean.

The North Texas Wind Symphony presents As Summer Was Just Beginning with near perfection, as usual:

More on the piece at Literature for Small Bands (an excellent resource!) and a University of Michigan report (.doc).

As he says in the program notes, Daehn based As Summer Was Just Beginning on the British Isles folk song “The Winter it is past“.  Here is a sung rendition of that:

Advertisements

David Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, December 26, 1945. His compositions have won four major competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His compositions have also been finalists in both the DeMoulin and Sudler competitions.  He holds degrees from Central Methodist College, Fayette, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. Holsinger has completed course work for a DMA at the University of Kansas. The composer was recently honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree for lifetime achievement in composition and the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest honor, designed and sculpted by renowned artist, Paul Granlund. Holsinger, as the fourth composer honored with this medal, joins a distinguished roster which includes Gunther Schuller, Jan Bender, and Csada Deak. Holsinger is the Conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

(short biography courtesy http://americanbandmasters.org/award/HOLSINGER.HTM)

Some more of my own thoughts on Holsinger: he is nothing if not a prolific composer for band. While he has his occassional tics (ostinatos, an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to percussion), his music is consistently thrilling to play. His faster pieces blaze by in a whirlwind of excitement, and his slower numbers are thoughtful and genuinely beautiful. It is for these reasons that he is a favorite of players and audiences alike.

Holsinger has his own website: davidrholsinger.com, which answers really ANY questions you might possibly have about him, including a fascinating testimonial about the search for his birth mother. There is much multi-media content as well, including videos of him ruminating on expressive performance.  Definitely check it out!  Also, Absolute Astronomy did an extensive profile on him that is worth a look.

Holsinger provides his own program notes for 1994’s Gypsydance:

Once again this composer draws inspiration from his admiration of the piano works of Bela Bartok for young players.  Many times in the early “Mikrokosmos“, we find Bartok attempting to free [his son] Peter’s mind from the “box” mentality by shifting accents in established meters or, as is done in Holsinger’s GYPSYDANCE, shifting keys within a single key signature.  The key signature says E-flat, but no… we obviously start in F minor, hop and skip our way through the home key… and end the piece in B-flat!  GYPSYDANCE also lets the student stylistically explore parallel staccato and full value melodic lines.

Holsinger goes on with learning objectives about style and tonality/modality.  To paraphrase: students should be able to play eighth and quarter notes in staccato, accented, and non-legato (regular, unmarked) style.  The piece explores modes, particularly F dorian and E-flat major (ionian), and it includes a scale exercise for wind players to help spell that out.

A middle school plays an admirable performance of Gypsydance:

For professional recording, see the J.W. Pepper page about the piece.  Also see GIA publications and this extensive lesson plan for more information about the piece.

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, from which Holsinger drew his inspiration, is a progressive piano method spanning six volumes that begins with the very simplest melodies and progresses to full-fledged virtuoso concert pieces.  It uses Hungarian folk songs for much of its melodic material.  Here are some examples from volume 2:

Flautist and composer Anne McGinty (b. 1945) writes prolifically for bands of all levels, especially elementary and middle school.  She studied at Ohio State University and Duquesne University, where her teachers included Joseph Wilcox Jenkins.  Among many other honors in her career, she was the first female composer to be commissioned to write for the United States Army Band.  She has recently opened her own publishing company, McGinty Music.

From the conductor’s score of Clouds (1994):

   CLOUDS is an original composition based on the imagery of different cloud forms.  The first section depicts cirrus clouds, the white delicate clouds usually found at high altitudes.  Thunderclouds begin at measure 23 and the accents and tone clusters are used to symbolize the increasing electricity associated with these thunder and lightning producing clouds.  Eventually the sun comes out and the sky has the rounded cumulus clouds that gracefully float away.

See more about the piece at WynnLiterature and the Wind Repertory Project.  Also, watch this great performance by a sixth grade band:

Clouds  depicts three different types of clouds: the cirrus, thundercloud, and cumulus.  Cirrus are long, thin, and whispy:

What McGinty calls “Thunderclouds” are known scientifically as cumulonimbus clouds.  They are tall, dense, and unstable, which makes them produce rain, lightning and thunder:

Cumulus clouds are the cumulonimbus’s fluffier, happier cousins. They do not tend to produce rain:

See more about Anne McGinty at Queenwood, MySpace, Wikibin, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Alfred Reed (1921-2005) was born in New York City.  He studied composition at the Juilliard School with Vittorio Giannini after a tour in the US Air Force during World War II.  He was later a staff arranger for NBC in the 1950s and a professor of music at Miami University from 1966 to 1993.  He is remembered today as a distinguished educator, conductor, and composer.  His impact was the greatest in the wind band world, where he left behind more than 100 frequently performed works.  He was particularly popular in Japan, where he developed a close relationship with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, and where many of his works are required literature for all bands.

Alfred Reed biography at C. L. Barnhouse music publishing.

Reed wrote Imperatrix as a middle school band piece in 1972.  While it isn’t a specifically programmatic piece, the title (it’s the Latin word for empress) suggests something elegant, epic, and ancient.  Says Reed about Imperatrix:

Imperatrix, A Concert Overture for Band, was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the G. P. Babb Junior High School Band of Forest Park, Georgia, and its director, Donald E. Wilkes.  The work was written early in 1972, and the first performance took place on April 7th, 1972, when the Babb Junior High School Symphonic Band appeared at a concert given for the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State Junior High School Band and Orchestra meeting, with Mr. Wilkes conducting.

The music is in sectional form, opening with a broad introduction that states all of the thematic material from which the work will be built.  This is followed by a brilliant Allegro, commencing with a fanfare-like figure in the Brass and proceeding through a hard-driving development in non-traditional harmonic structures that finally dies away as the third section begins.  This contrasting episode is built up from a long, lyrical line sung by all of the Flutes in unison over a rich, warm and quiet background in the Clarinets, Baritones and Tuba.  The closing cadence of this section, like that of the first, leads back to the Allegro once again, which this time drives on into the Coda where all of the themes are restated in the brightest colors of the Band.  The work ends with a joyous and triumphant conclusion.

Imperatrix on Youtube:

Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) has distinguished himself as an innovative composer and a dedicated teacher of the creative process of composition.  He started his career as a jazz drummer in Chicago and New York, studying composition all along.  That is where he has made his mark, with commissions from prestigious ensembles all over the English-speaking world and a Pulitzer Prize among many other awards under his belt.  He currently lives in Toronto when he is not touring the world teaching middle- and high-school teachers and their students how to compose.  To see deeper into Colgrass’s fascinating life, check out the blog related to his autobiography, or visit his website, or watch the Emmy-winning documentary that his son made about his music.  Or, for extra kicks, see his Wikipedia biography.

Colgrass wrote Old Churches in 2000 on a commission from the American Composer’s Forum.  From the score:

According to composer Michael Colgrass, Old Churches is one of the most challenging pieces he can remember writing. His goal was to create music that was interesting, expressive and challenging, yet playable by students in the early stages of performing on their instruments and who are also unfamiliar with modern music techniques.

His solution was to write a work based on Gregorian vocal chant with unison melodies. Playing in unison helps student musicians feel more confident, and allowed Colgrass to copiously double the melodic lines. The tempo is slow; the phrases are all in quarter and eighth notes, and the harmonies are simple. Some easy graphic notation and chance techniques are employed, such as pitches played without rhythm, and a murmuring effect that simulates the idea of voices echoing in monastic churches. Colgrass hopes that Old Churches is a piece that conveys emotion at the same time it makes young bands sound good.

Old Churches uses Gregorian chant to create a slightly mysterious monastery scene filled with the prayers and chanting of monks in an old church. Gregorian chant is ancient church music and that has been in existence for over 1500 years. The chant unfolds through call and response patterns. One monk intones a musical idea, then the rest of the monks respond by singing back. This musical conversation continues throughout the piece, with the exception of a few brief interruptions. Perhaps they are the quiet comments church visitors make to one another.

Old Churches as performed live by the Detroit School of the Arts Wind Symphony:

What does Colgrass mean by Gregorian chant?  Here is a shining example, complete with pictures of an old church, sung by a soloist:

So many avenues are available to explore Old Churches: GIA publishes a downloadable study guide for the piece.  Colgrass featured it front and center in his 2004 Midwest Clinic presentation  about middle school bands: the handout is here.  Old Churches has dedicated write-ups at the Wind Repertory Project, the American Composer’s Forum, and Hal Leonard.  It was also featured in a master’s thesis (pdf download) at Kansas State University.

Steven Bryant (b. 1972) is an acclaimed, award-winning composer whose works often straddle different media.  He is a three-time recipient of the National Band Association’s William D. Revelli Composition Award (2007, 2008, 2010). His first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, was “orchestrated like a virtuoso” according to celebrated composer Samuel Adler.  His epic work for wind band and electronics, Ecstatic Waters, has received more performances than any other piece of its kind.  His other work includes pieces for wind band (some with added electronics), orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic music.  He studied composition at The Juilliard School with John Corigliano, at the University of North Texas with Cindy McTee, and at Ouachita University with W. Francis McBeth.

The Machine Awakes is the result of a 2012 commission from a consortium of 20 schools.  It is unique in at least two respects.  First, while it is a grade 2 piece, it comes with optional grade 3 parts, allowing more advanced players a greater challenge that fits in with the rest of the band.  More importantly, it may be the first piece ever written for young band and electronics.  Bryant gives it a Terminator-like back story as well:

The Machine Awakes is the sound of something not human (but of humans hands) – something not entirely organic, but most definitely alive – waking up for the first time. From the opening swirling textures, we sense the first hesitant sparks of thought, attempting to find form and coherence. This new machine – sentient, aware – comes fully awake, possessed of emphatic self-determination and unfathomable purpose.

Read more about The Machine Awakes at Steven Bryant’s website and his blog (twice).  Read up on Bryant himself at Wikipedia.

Here’s the piece in a live performance by a high school band.

Go to Bryant’s website for more recordings of the piece, including the original MIDI realization and a near-professional live recording.

Obviously Bryant likes and is comfortable in electronic media.  He has a YouTube account, a Twitter handle, and a Facebook fan page.  He has a fantastic website with a blog attached.  He also numbers the revisions of his music like computer software: for instance, his latest version of Dusk is version 1.4.  In his words, “The old version (1.2) is NOT compatible” with the new.  He also writes dedicated electronic music.  My favorite, which I heard when I sat in at his session at the Ball State University Conducting Workshop, is called Hummingbrrd.  Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!

Randall Standridge is a composer and band director from Arkansas.  His music has been performed all over the US and internationally.

Standridge offers the following program note on Adrenaline Engines:

In 2008, I wrote a piece entitled Afterburn, which I premiered with my Junior High ensemble. The kids loved the piece; even more amazing was the response from my high school band students. The next day, I was bombarded with requests from the senior band members that boiled down to “We want to play something like that!” I was happy to oblige, and Adrenaline Engines was born.

Adrenaline Engines is essentially “Afterburn II.” It explores some of the same rhythmic and motivic ideas, but is written for more advanced players. There are time signature changes, key changes, timpani changes, etc… and the rhythmic and melodic challenges are greater.

Adrenaline Engines was also the result of a commission from George Pokorski, band director at Marion Middle School in Marion, AR. He wished to commission a piece to premiere with the Arkansas Small Band Association All-Star Band. He premiered the piece with that ensemble in the Spring of 2009.

I hope you, your students, and your audience will enjoy the thundering percussion, driving rhythms, and kinetic (sometimes frenetic) energy that I tried to imbue in this work.

Here is Standridge himself conducting his high school band in Adrenaline Engines:

And the inspiration for this piece, Standridge’s Afterburn performed by his middle school band with the composer conducting.