American Composer Steven Bryant

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On June 4, 2017, the Northshore Concert Band concludes its 61st season with On the Town. This lively musical program features In This Broad Earth by acclaimed American composer Steven Bryant.

Mr. Bryant offers up this description of his work:

In This Broad Earth is a short fanfare written for and dedicated to Kevin Sedatole and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony. Inspired by beauty I witness when hiking in the Austrian Alps with my wife, Verena, the music celebrates the earth, our only home (for now).

The fanfare embodies the numerous threads that have connected my life with Michigan State University over the past decade. Verena was one of Dr. Sedatole’s first conducting students at MSU, which coincided with the beginning of our relationship. I spent a great deal of time at Verena’s apartment in Spartan Village where I wrote the opening section of my Concerto for Wind Ensemble on a makeshift desk (a card table given to her by Director of Bands Emeritus John Whitwell). Over the years since, the MSU bands have performed many of my works, always at the very highest level, and though I was never a student there, I have great affection and loyalty to this extraordinary school on the banks of the Red Cedar.

COME, said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,
Sing me the Universal.

In this broad Earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed Perfection.

from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Universal from Leaves of Grass

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Steven Bryant’s music is chiseled in its structure and intent, fusing lyricism, dissonance, silence, technology, and humor into lean, skillfully-crafted works that enthrall listeners and performers alike.  The son of a professional trumpeter and music educator, he strongly values music education, and his creative output includes a number of works for young and developing musicians.

We contacted Mr. Bryant in Austria and asked him to share with us his thoughts on In This Broad Earth, his musical influences and words of advice that he has for young musicians.

About In This Broad Earth:

“I don’t have much to add about the piece that’s not already on my website. I wanted to create a euphoric fanfare and took my time in Austria (coincidentally, where I am at this moment writing this to you!) as inspiration.”
What are your Musical Influences?
“Stravinsky, Nine Inch Nails, Webern, Mr. Bungle, and my teachers, Francis McBeth, Cindy McTee, and John Corigliano”
Do you have any words of advice for young musicians?
“The hours of persistence in learning your craft will bring ongoing rewards throughout the rest of your life. Regardless of whether or not you plan to become a professional musician, continute to make music throughout your life, such as in a community band or orchestra. You will be a happier human being if you do.”

Steven Bryant studied composition with John Corigliano at The Juilliard School, Cindy McTee at the University of North Texas, and Francis McBeth at Ouachita University.  As he states on his website, he also trained for one summer in the mid-1980s as a break-dancer (i.e. was forced into lessons by his mother), was the 1987 radio-controlled car racing Arkansas state champion, has a Bacon Number of 1, and has played saxophone with Branford Marsalis on Sleigh Ride. He resides in Durham, NC with his wife, Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant who is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Music and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Music Department  at Duke University, Director of the Duke University Wind Symphony, and conductor of the Durham Medical Orchestra.

His seminal work Ecstatic Waters, for wind ensemble and electronics, has become one of the most performed works of its kind in the world, receiving over 250 performances in its first five seasons. Recently, the orchestral version was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra to unanimous, rapturous acclaim.

John Corigliano states Bryant’s “compositional virtuosity is evident in every bar” of his 34’ Concerto for Wind Ensemble. Bryant’s first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, hailed by composer Samuel Adler as “orchestrated like a virtuoso,” was premiered by The Juilliard Symphony and is featured on a CD release by the Bowling Green Philharmonia on Albany Records. Alchemy in Silent Spaces, commissioned by James DePreist and The Juilliard School, was premiered by the Juilliard Orchestra in May 2006. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series featured his brass quintet, Loose Id, conducted by Cliff Colnot, on its 2012-13 concert series.

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Notable upcoming projects include an orchestral work for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (April, 2018), an evening-length dramatic work for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, a choral work for the BBC Singers (July, 2017), a work for FivE for Euphonium Quartet and wind ensemble (2019), and a large work to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Illinois Bands. Recent works include a Concerto for Alto Saxophone for Joseph Lulloff and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony (winner of the 2014 American Bandmasters Sousa Ostwald Award), and a Concerto for Trombone for Joseph Alessi and the Dallas Wind Symphony. Other commissions have come from the Gaudete Brass Quintet (Chicago), cellist Caroline Stinson (Lark Quartet), pianist Pamela Mia Paul, the Amherst Saxophone Quartet (funded by the American Composers Jerome Composers Commissioning Program), the University of Texas – Austin Wind Ensemble, the US Air Force Band of Mid-America, the Japanese Wind Ensemble Conductors Conference, and the Calgary Stampede Band, as well as many others.

A special thank you to Mr. Bryant for generously speaking with us and for giving permission to reproduce this material.  Please visit his website at http://www.stevenbryant.com to learn more about this American composer.

On the Town

Sunday, June 4, 2017, 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

 

 

Peter Lograsso: Fiddler on the Loose!

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Our Spring concert, Giving Voice to the Silenced, honors Holocaust Remembrance Day and Earth Day through a musical program that offers a story of vitality, loss, contemplation, and possibility.

The centerpiece of the first half of this program is a specially constructed “Remembrance Suite” that includes Jack Stamp’s Scenes from Terezin, which is based upon the poems of Ava Scholsova and Fronta Bas, both of whom died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Our Suite also includes John William’s dramatic Theme from Schindler’s List, which features one of our own members, Peter Lograsso, on violin.

Peter, an orchestra director, has played the tuba with the Northshore Concert Band for 28 years.

We asked him share his thoughts on playing both the violin and the tuba.

The violin is actually my major instrument, not the tuba. I started playing the violin in first grade after hearing a performance by members of the Cleveland Orchestra at my elementary school. Shortly after that my parents enrolled me in a Suzuki violin program at our church. It wasn’t until the 5th grade that band lessons were offered at my school. I started learning the trumpet so I could be in the band with all my friends. During my years in school I played the french horn, trombone, and eventually the tuba. My band director needed someone to play the tuba and I figured, why not?

I’ve always enjoyed the dichotomy of playing the violin and the tuba. The two instruments play such different roles in an ensemble. As a music educator, I really feel that my experience with both instruments has helped me develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of every section of the band or orchestra. The violin is the soprano, the “diva” of the orchestra. In an orchestra the violin carries the melody the majority of the time, much like the flutes and clarinets in a band. The tuba is the bass, the “rock.” It provides the fundamental sound that everyone else must listen to and build upon.

I always ask my orchestra students, “What is the most important instrument in the orchestra?” Their answer is almost always the violin. I say to them “No, the violins just think they’re the most important!” It’s the bass that is the most vital instrument of all. Without a strong, stable foundation, you won’t have a strong ensemble.

We also asked Peter to share this thoughts on performing a solo with the Northshore Concert Band.

It’s a real thrill to play a solo with the Northshore Band. This is the second time that I’ve had the opportunity. In the Summer of 2001 the band toured the South of France and I played “Highlights from Fiddler on the Roof.”

I have such respect and admiration for all of my colleagues in the Northshore Band. I’ve been a member of the band for my entire adult life. John Paynter invited me to join the tuba section right after I graduated from Northwestern, and I’ve been here ever since.

Many of the closest friends in my life are members of the Northshore Band. We make music together every Wednesday night, but we share so much more.

Don’t miss Peter Lograsso’s solo violin performance during Giving Voice to the Silenced, 3:00 pm April 23, 2017 concert at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the beautiful Northwestern University campus in Evanston, Illinois.

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Be sure to check out Peter in the NCB Tuba’s “Baseball Card” in the Giving Voice to the Silenced concert program book (pp 23-24)!

American Composer David Maslanka

On April 23, 2017, the Northshore Concert Band continues its 61st season with Giving Voice to the Silenced. This powerful musical program features two works by acclaimed American composer David Maslanka; California and A Child’s Garden of Dreams.

A Child’s Garden of Dreams  was commissioned by and dedicated to Northshore Concert Band founder John P. Paynter and his wife Marietta Paynter and the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble. The Northshore Concert Band will perform A Child’s Garden of Dreams at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at Northwestern University in Evanston where it was first performed 35 years ago.  Mr. Maslanka offers up this description of his work:

“A Child’s Garden of Dreams” came about through a commission from John Paynter of Northwestern University. The music was composed in 1981, and the premiere performance was at Northwestern in 1982. Paynter had asked me to write a piece that was the wind equivalent of Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” This was a daunting challenge but I said “Sure!” The five movements of “A Child’s Garden” are based on dreams of a young girl who, unknown to her, was at the end of her life. The dreams were presented and discussed by the psychologist, Carl Jung, in his book, “Man and His Symbols.” The dreams are about transition and transformation, a prefiguring of her passing. Jung found it both disturbing and fascinating that such dreams could come through a child. I have long been fascinated by ideas of transformation, in this life, and beyond, and my music is an attempt to capture the central energy of each of the dreams. Sometimes there is graphic illustration as in the third dream where animals grow to an enormous size and devour the girl, and sometimes there is a subtle parallel flow of music and philosophical thought, as in the second dream: “A drunken woman falls into the water and comes out renewed and sober.” What is evoked by both the dreams and the music is a much larger view of life and death than we normally have.”

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The program also features California, premiered February 13, 2016 by the California All-State Wind Symphony and was conducted by Northshore Concert Band’s Conductor and Artistic Director Dr. Mallory Thompson. Mr. Maslanka describes this piece:

“California” was written for the the 2016 California All-State Band, and the premiere performance was conducted in San Jose by Mallory Thompson. Music education in California had seen a revival after years of funding cuts, and there was a renewed statewide sense of possibility in public school music teachers. I was asked to write a piece that might reflect some of that new-found energy and purpose. My thinking went deeper to touch some fundamental element of the strength of the California land and its people. The music is quietly and beautifully expressive at the outset, and rises to moments of great intensity before settling once more to a quiet close.”

 

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Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts David Maslanka attended the Oberlin College Conservatory where he studied composition with Joseph Wood. He spent a year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and did masters and doctoral study in composition at Michigan State University where his principal teacher was H. Owen Reed.

Maslanka’s music for winds has become especially well known. Among his more than 130 works are forty pieces for wind ensemble, including seven symphonies, fifteen concertos, a Mass, and many concert pieces. His chamber music includes four wind quintets, five saxophone quartets, and many works for solo instrument and piano. In addition, he has written a variety of orchestral and choral pieces.

David Maslanka’s compositions are published by Maslanka Press, Carl Fischer, Kjos Music, Marimba Productions, and OU Percussion Press. They have been recorded on Albany, Reference Recordings, BIS (Sweden), Naxos, Cambria, CRI, Mark, Novisse, AUR, Cafua (Japan), Brain Music (Japan), Barking Dog, and Klavier labels. He has served on the faculties of the State University of New York at Geneseo, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, and since 1990 has been a freelance composer. He now lives in Missoula, Montana. David Maslanka is a member of ASCAP.

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A special thank you to Mr. Maslanka for generously offering us his thoughts on his two beautiful works and for giving permission to reproduce this material.  Please visit his website at www.davidmaslanka.com to learn more about this American composer.

Giving Voice to the Silenced

Sunday, April 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

Hear the Music. See the Music. Feel the Music.

When you go to a concert hall you will hear the music, you will see the music and you will feel it come alive!

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It is important that children develop an appreciation of the arts!  It develops their language and listening skills, increases their attentions span, and teaches them creativity, discipline and self-esteem. Taking children to live concerts helps them gain an appreciation for music. They are given the opportunity to see musicians that love performing music! There is an “event” quality to a live concert at a concert hall that children realize and appreciate.

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The Lifetime of Music event, now in its 15th year, is designed to introduce young musicians to the idea that “music is for a lifetime”.  It is an extraordinary opportunity for students to gain the experience of being a part of a large symphonic sound as they join the members of the world-renowned Northshore Concert Band to perform on the stage of the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. It is also an extraordinary opportunity for children to sit in an audience and see other children performing on stage.

This was such an amazing experience. I truly appreciated every part and it was an honor playing with a very well-known band. It’s my dream to eventually conduct a band as great as this one. I hope to come back and perform again!”                 –Alex Damato, Lifetime of Music student, Westchester, IL

This musical performance is a highlight of every season. In this year’s concert, titled Youthful Spirit, students and band members combine to perform exuberant music that expresses a cheerful American spirit with heartfelt optimism!

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The students truly enjoyed everything about the event and were inspired by the dedication of adults to the continuation of their musical journeys.  My seniors involved in this concert expressed their interest in signing up for band in college and continuing to play in a community band in the future because of the experience they had.”   –2016 Lifetime of Music participating band director

The Northshore Concert Band has brought music to the Chicago metropolitan area for 61 years. Their engaging music education programs demonstrate to younger musicians that there are opportunities for them to play and enjoy their instruments their entire lives, regardless of whether they choose a musical vocation.

 


 

Concert Information: Youthful Spirit Sunday, February 12, 2017, 3:00 pm Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

Ticket Information: Individual concert tickets are $20 each, seniors $15, students/children $10. Tickets are available in advance or at the box office on the day of the concert. The box office opens at 2:00 pm on the day of the concert. Online Tickets are available here.

Bring A Group! To make these unforgettable performances accessible for music lovers of all ages we offer special group rates to groups of 10 or more.  Call us at 847-432-2263 or email adam@northshoreband.org  to customize your group ticket package today!

 

Experience the Musical Excellence of Northshore Concert Band www.northshoreband.org 

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Music Is For A Lifetime!

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THE NORTHSHORE CONCERT BAND CONTINUES ITS 61ST SEASON WITH YOUTHFUL SPIRIT!

In a highlight of the season, some of the most talented young musicians in the Chicagoland area join the Northshore Concert Band for our “Lifetime of Music” program.

This Lifetime of Music concert celebrates both the youthful spirit of our student guests and that same spirit that exists in all of us. Percy Grainger toured the British countryside, collecting folk songs and preserving them on wax cylinders. His colorful masterwork, Lincolnshire Posy, is a delightful depiction of both the folk songs and personalities of the folk singers that he recorded. The students and band members combine to perform exuberant music that expresses a cheerful American spirit with heartfelt optimism!  Our popular Annual Silent Auction will be held in connection with this concert and is held in the lobby of the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

 

Program highlights will include:

  • Stampede – Steven Bryant
  • Lincolnshire Posy – Percy Grainger/ed. Frederick Fennel
  • Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla –Mikhail Glinka/arr. Matt Johnston

 

Concert Information:

Youthful Spirit

Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

Ticket Information:

Individual concert tickets are $20 each, seniors (65+) $15, students/children $10.
Tickets are available in advance or at the box office on the day of the concert.

The box office opens at 2:00 pm on the day of the concert.

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Music is a natural part of everyone. It creates an atmosphere of fun, interaction and excitement. That is why children are naturally drawn to it. If we nurture this ability, music will provide a lifetime of enjoyment and creativity.

 

Students Meet NCB Tuba Players & Gene Pokorny!

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The Northshore Concert Band tuba players met with a group of over 3 dozen students and their parents before Sunday’s season opening concert, for a lively meet and greet.  They shared stories about their experiences, answered questions and passed out souvenir keepsakes.

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Northshore Concert Band artistic director and conductor, Dr. Mallory Thompson stopped in to say hi to everyone as well!

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Those attending this fun and informal gathering were thrilled when Gene Pokorny, principal tuba with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra joined the group and shared stories about his musical background and offered encouraging words to the student musicians in attendance!  The event ended with a group photo that included the students, the NCB Tubas and Gene Pokorny.  Students were given a copy of this photo as a memento of this unforgettable experience!

We were honored to welcome Mr. Pokorny for his first solo performance with NCB!

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The Northshore Concert Band tuba players include John Harshey, a band director from Mundelein who has been with NCB for 31 years,  Rodney Owens, a band director from Lake Forest, who has also been with NCB for 31 years, Peter Lograsso, an orchestra director from Westchester who has been with the band for 28 years, Kevin Baldwin, a mechanical engineer from Des Plaines and NCB member for 10 years and Eric Weisseg, and IT manager from Chicago who has been an NCB member for 9 years.


The next Northshore Concert Band concert is our highly anticipated annual “Lifetime of Music” program.  In a highlight of the season, we are joined on stage by some of the most talented young musicians in the Chicagoland area!

Youthful Spirit

Sunday, February 12, 2017, 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

For More Information:
Visit www.northshoreband.org or call (847) 432-2263.

 

Images: Courtesy of Douglas Boehm

Gene Pokorny Interview (Part Two)

The Northshore Concert Band is honored to welcome Guest Soloist Gene Pokorny, Principal Tuba Of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the first concert of out 61st season!  Widely considered the finest tuba player in the world today, our November 6, 2016 concert, entitled Reflections, marks his first solo performance with the Northshore Concert Band!

Northshore Concert Band member Paul Bauer recently interviewed Gene Pokorny. Below is part two of this fascinating peek into the life of this remarkable musician.

Read part one of the interview here

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What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?

It is hard to get a position in an orchestra but there is always room at the top if you work hard enough and if you’ve got enough raw talent.  One caution, however.  If you want to become a professional player and have opted to be a music education major for some type of job security, fine.  But make sure you have the passion and interest for teaching.  If you really don’t care that much about being an educator and cannot be effervescent in front of a bunch of young people to turn them on to music, please do not get into music education.  The world does not need any more people in music education who are turning kids off to music.  Do something else with your life.  For everybody else, listen to as much music as you can and distill what you like or don’t like about the various music you hear. 

Which composer/musician – past or present – would you most like to meet for a coffee and why?

Gerald Finzi (1901 – 1956, British composer) was a friend with Ralph Vaughan Williams. He wrote some of the most heart-felt songs based on poems by Robert Bridges, Thomas Hardy and others.  He was a remarkable musician who never received the proper accolades he rightfully deserved.  He was a simple man but not a simplistic one.  He seemed to have core values that kept him sane after having felt many hardships in his younger days.  I could have learned a lot from him.  A couple years ago I played his Five Bagatelles, originally for clarinet solo and piano, arranged for tuba solo and band by Joseph Kreines.  That was very memorable for me.  

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What do you do to relax?

I am a “foamer.”  That is supposed to be a derogatory term given by railroad people to those of us who are railfans and hang out at railroad tracks and watch trains.  I consider that term a badge of honor.  While I am a member of the 20th Century Railroad Club and the Union Pacific Historical Society, I will spend time hanging out on the Union Pacific West line.  Nothing like grabbing cinnamon rolls from Prairie Bread Kitchen in Oak Park and watch some heavy freights roll through.  We watch the big trains on vacations as well.  Our four basset hounds are perfect foils in case I am practicing or hanging out at the tracks too much.  One place Beth, the pups and I enjoy is the Rochelle Railroad Park.  It is a drive but there is plenty of railroad action as well as diesel and creosote smells.  What could possibly go wrong? 

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If you weren’t a professional musician what would you be?

I still have a passion for being a band director.  I think I would be good at it, but I don’t know that I could do it as well as others who have less “baggage.”  If I was not involved in music, I would probably do something involved with the railroad.  That may be a more romantic than a realistic notion.  I fantasize about being an engineer running a mile-long unit coal train with 18,000 tons behind me going up a 2.5% grade with my hands on the throttle of 24,000 horsepower.  Maybe it is the transportation equivalent of being a tuba player in an orchestra.  The contribution in terms of being a solo voice is minimal but if you provide smart, controlled, massive power, the tuba can elevate the level of the entire orchestra because of the reliable foundation it provides. 


Please join us on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University; 50 Arts Circle Drive in Evanston, Illinois for Reflections,  conducted by Artistic Director Mallory Thompson, and featuring guest soloist Gene Pokorny, Principal Tuba of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra!

Program highlights will include:
Elegy – John Barnes Chance
Gene Pokorny, tuba soloist
o Turbulence – Bruce Broughton
o Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen/arr. Alan Morrison/trans. Joseph Kreines
Festive Overture – Dmitri Shostakovich/arr. Donald Hunsberger
October – Dmitri Shostakovich/arr. Preston Mitchell

Ticket Information:
Individual concert tickets are $20 each, seniors $15, students/children $10.                                To make these unforgettable performances accessible for music lovers of all ages we offer special group rates to groups of 10 or more.  Call us at 847-432-2263 or email adam@northshoreband.org  to customize your group ticket package today!

Tickets are available in advance or at the box office on the day of the concert.
The box office opens at 2:00 pm on the day of the concert.

For More Information:
Visit www.northshoreband.org or call (847) 432-2263.

Gene Pokorny Interview (Part One)

The Northshore Concert Band is honored to welcome Guest Soloist Gene Pokorny, Principal Tuba Of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the first concert of our 61st season!  Widely considered the finest tuba player in the world today, our November 6, 2016 concert, entitled Reflections, marks his first solo performance with the Northshore Concert Band!

Before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra he was tuba player in the Israel Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition to playing film scores in Hollywood such as Jurassic Park and The Fugitive,  he is a member of the Union Pacific (Railroad) Historical Society and spends time as a “foamer” (watching and chasing trains) as well as a card-carrying member of The Three Stooges Fan Club.

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Northshore Concert Band member Paul Bauer recently interviewed Gene Pokorny. Below is part one of this fascinating peek into the life of this remarkable musician.

Please tell us a bit about your journey through trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet to the tuba.

My dad was a trumpet player.  I followed in his footsteps and picked up the trumpet soon after I had started on piano.  I started on the wrong foot by using too much mouthpiece pressure and was very tense.  My dad knew this was not right so I switched to saxophone.  Soon thereafter I switched to clarinet.  When I was in 8th grade, the tuba player in the junior high band was graduating and they needed somebody to play.  When you’re sitting in a junior high clarinet section, the sounds are enough to make you start to see dead relatives…and my sounds were at least as bad as my clarinet-playing schoolmates.  So moving to the tuba at the back of the band room was the easy way out especially since it was also closest to the back door and a quick escape to snack period.  Eventually, I stuck with the tuba into high school.  At one point, one of the tuba players in the high school band said he wanted to have a brass quintet play at the Moravian Church of Downey where his dad was the reverend.  When we played at the church, I noticed the choir director pick up a trombone and started to play during the offertory.  I thought he sounded good and I told him.   I found out the next week that Jeff Reynolds (the choir director) had just won the Los Angeles Philharmonic bass trombone job!!  So I started to really get interested in low brass instruments.  I took some bass trombone lessons from him.  I realized right away that I would never, ever, ever become as good as he was on bass trombone.  So I thought it would be better to stick with the tuba.  I took some lessons from him, and eventually he said I should take some tuba lessons from Roger Bobo [tubist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic].  So I did.  I was getting hooked big time.  I started to listen to Roger Bobo’s recordings.  While I was impressed with his playing, my goal was to become a high school band director as a rebellion against my really diminutive high school music program: 2,300 students in the high school and we had 25 people in the band.  It was next to nothing and very depressing.  I kept the playing up but my main goal was to become a band director.  I was a music education major when I first went to college at the University of Redlands.  Everything changed however on the night of May 13, 1973.  A visiting orchestra came to San Diego which some of my pals at Redlands and I attended.  It was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti playing Mahler Symphony #5.  That evening made a big difference in my outlook.  I decided to take the plunge and try to become a professional performer and leave the band director goals behind.   I transferred to the University of Southern California, because Tommy Johnson taught there.  He was the final word as far as learning how to play the tuba in Southern California although I still took lessons from Roger Bobo.  In the spring of 1975, I received a call from Bobo who said that there was a tuba position open in the Israel Philharmonic.  He thought I should audition for it.  I would be playing for Zubin Mehta [Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Conductor/Music Advisor of the Israel Philharmonic].  It was pretty easy to drive to the audition site at the Los Angeles Music Center.  The trombone section from the LA Philharmonic listened along with Mehta to me and a couple other players.  Mehta had some other people to listen to in other cities.  I drove back to USC and continued my day.  It was about two weeks later that I got a call from Bobo, who said that Mehta wanted me for the Israel Philharmonic and I should give him a call at a hotel in Italy.  I was on cloud nine.  I gave him a call and I got a contract in the mail. [Gene graduated from USC and then began playing with the Israel Philharmonic in 1975].

What do you enjoy most about your life as a musician?  

While I very much enjoy being on stage playing in the orchestra, I really enjoy playing recitals, picking my own repertoire, and having the privilege of introducing new music, old music, abused music and/or unused music, to people.    I like the opportunity to be able to stand in front of an audience and open the musical doors wide and be welcoming so people can relate to what they are about to listen to.  I think it’s really important to do that.  If you are playing a great piece of music, serve it on bona fide china rather than on a paper plate.  It will make it seem more special to the people listening.  By telling just a few facts about the music or the composer at the time of his writing a piece, you can greatly enhance the perception of how the piece is heard.

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CSO tuba Gene Pokorny hits a few high notes in warm up before a concert in Brescia.             © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

Please share a bit about memorable experiences you have had playing in bands.

My high school experience with bands was very unrewarding.  I learned that it could have been much different and a lot better when I went to several summer music camps.  One was at the Idyllwild School of Music and Arts [now called the Idyllwild Arts Academy]. The band director when I was there was Benton Minor [who taught at the California State University – Fullerton]. He was a highly-disciplined task master who insisted that you always show up at least 10 minutes before rehearsal and that you always have a rehearsal pencil.  If not, you would suffer.  That was not a threat; that was a promise.  There have been times when I left for rehearsal here [CSO], and if I discovered that I did not have my rehearsal pencil with me, I would go home to get it.  It was better than being guilt-ridden.  The lasting impression I had of Benton Minor was the idea of a pyramidal sense of balance, where the bottom register is the strongest and most reliable in pitch and rhythm.  Consequently, the highest notes in the ensemble are of lesser importance.  I heard this idea espoused by W. Francis MacBeth [renowned wind composer] and Clarence Sawhill [band director at UCLA] who taught at Arrowbear Music Camp in California.  I thought that’s the way an orchestra should be balanced.  I later found out that that is what George Szell brought to the Cleveland Orchestra.  Anyway, after my orchestra career started, I really missed playing in band and its repertoire – Gustav Holst’s Military Suites, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Toccata Marziale, H. Owen Reed’s La Fiesta Mexicana, music of Roger Nixon, etc.  The only band repertoire that made it onto the orchestra stage was when Erich Leinsdorf conducted the St. Louis Symphony in an orchestral version of Karel Husa’s Music for Prague 1968, which I remember from high school honor band. There have been times when I have gone incognito in some local community bands either hiding in the tuba section or hiding in the third clarinet section.

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What have been some of your musical influences?

Majors influences (some retired/late) include:

Larry Johansen – taught tuba at University of Redlands when I first arrived there in 1971.

Jeff Reynolds (bass trombone – Los Angeles Philharmonic, choir director – Moravian Church of Downey, California). Influential teacher, hero.  He was my model.

Roger Bobo (tuba – Los Angeles Philharmonic) The singularly most distinctive tuba sound around.  He is to tuba as Pavarotti was to being a tenor. 

Tommy Johnson (tuba – Los Angeles studios) Influential teacher during formative time.  Crown prince of the low register.

Red (David) Lehr (sousaphone – St. Louis; traditional jazz, ragtime, dixieland) I don’t know of a player who plays any smoother. Red is the most amazing legato tuba player I have ever heard, and his main influence was Pete Fountain (iconic New Orleans traditional jazz clarinetist)

Mordechai Rechtman (Principal bassoon – Israel Philharmonic) He could completely control the orchestra with his instrument from where he was sitting.

George Silfies (Principal clarinet – St. Louis Symphony) A consummate musician.

Arnold Jacobs (tuba – Chicago Symphony) had a distinctive sound and tension-less approach.

Floyd Cooley (tuba – San Francisco Symphony) Had a solo sound that offered another approach for me from my earliest influences

Rex Martin (Professor of tuba – Northwestern University) I’d describe him as a young and vital Arnold Jacobs with an amazingly large tool box to help fix playing problems.

Warren Deck (tuba – New York Philharmonic) Is probably my favorite orchestral tuba player.

Larry Combs (Principal clarinet – Chicago Symphony) One of those players who never failed to take my breath away. 

Steve (Stephen) Williamson (Principal Clarinet – Chicago Symphony Orchestra) I never thought I’d hear anyone as good as that.

Michael Mulcahy (trombone – Chicago Symphony Orchestra) The only predictable thing about Mulcahy’s playing is that it is unpredictable. When I attend a recital of his, I know I am going to have an exciting ride.


Please join us on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University; 50 Arts Circle Drive in Evanston, Illinois for Reflections,  conducted by Artistic Director Mallory Thompson, and featuring guest soloist Gene Pokorny, Principal Tuba of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra!

Program highlights will include:
Elegy – John Barnes Chance
Gene Pokorny, tuba soloist
o Turbulence – Bruce Broughton
o Over the Rainbow – Harold Arlen/arr. Alan Morrison/trans. Joseph Kreines
Festive Overture – Dmitri Shostakovich/arr. Donald Hunsberger
October – Dmitri Shostakovich/arr. Preston Mitchell

Ticket Information:
Individual concert tickets are $20 each, seniors $15, students/children $10.To make these unforgettable performances accessible for music lovers of all ages we offer special group rates to groups of 10 or more.  Call us at 847-432-2263 or email adam@northshoreband.org  to customize your group ticket package today!

Tickets are available in advance or at the box office on the day of the concert.
The box office opens at 2:00 pm on the day of the concert.

For More Information:
Visit www.northshoreband.org or call (847) 432-2263.

Magnolia Star by Steve Danyew

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Steve Danyew is an award-winning composer for wind, choral, orchestral + chamber groups. He received a B.M. from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami and holds an M.M. in Composition and Certificate in Arts Leadership from the Eastman School of Music.

Magnolia Star, a highlight of our fall 2016 concert Reflections, is an energetic piece that was written for wind ensembles.  The Magnolia Star was a train that ran from New Orleans to Chicago with the famous Panama Limited in the mid 20th century.This work evokes train travel with driving rhythms, train-like sonorities, and also uses the blues scale as the primary pitch material of the piece.

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Composer Steve Danyew has this to say about his fun and energetic Magnolia Star:

“When I was playing saxophone in my middle school jazz band, we started every rehearsal the same way – with an improvisation exercise that our director created.  It was a simple yet brilliant exercise for teaching beginning improvisation and allowing everyone in the band a chance to “solo.”  As a warm-up at the opening of each rehearsal, the whole band played the blues scale ascending, resting for one measure, descending, and resting for another measure (see example below).

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During the measures of rest, each member of the band took turns improvising a solo.  Looking back, this exercise not only got the band swinging together from the start of rehearsal, but it made improvisation, a daunting musical task to many, seem within everyone’s abilities.

This experience was my introduction to the blues scale, and I have long wanted to write a piece inspired by this group of pitches. In Magnolia Star, I explore various ways to use these pitches in harmonies, melodies, and timbres, creating a diverse set of ideas that will go beyond sounds that we typically associate with the blues scale. I didn’t want to create a “blues” piece, but rather a piece in my own musical voice that uses and pays homage to the blues scale.  Nearly all of the pitches used in Magnolia Star fit into the concert C blues scale.  It is interesting to note that embedded within the C blues scale are both a C minor triad, an Eb minor triad, and an Eb major triad.  I explore the alternation of these tonal areas right from the start of the piece, and continue to employ them in different ways throughout the entire work.

Another influence was trains and the American railroad. The railroad not only provides some intriguing sonic ideas, with driving rhythms and train-like sonorities, but it was also an integral part of the growth of jazz and blues in America.  In the late 19th century, the Illinois Central Railroad constructed rail lines that stretched from New Orleans and the “Delta South” all the way north to Chicago. Many southern musicians traveled north via the railroad, bringing “delta blues” and other idioms to northern parts of the country.  The railroad was also the inspiration for countless blues songs by a wide variety of artists.  Simply put, the railroad was crucial to the dissemination of jazz and blues in the early 20th century.  Magnolia Star was an Illinois Central train that ran from New Orleans to Chicago with the famous Panama Limited in the mid 20th century.” (images and quote are reproduced from www.stevedanyew.com)

Join us on Sunday November 5, 2016 as the Magnolia Star returns to the Chicagoland area!

Reflections

Sunday November 6, 2016, 3:00 pm
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois

 

 

For more information about Steve Danyew, visit www.stevedanyew.com.
To purchase tickets for this performance, visit www.northshoreband.org