ICS CAPTIVATES PRESTIGIOUS COMPOSER
In December of 2007, I took a group of high school band students to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO. There was a relatively new event for select high school musicians called Best of the West. One of the special components of Best of the West is that CMU commissions a composer each year to write a piece of music for the university’s Wind Symphony to perform. This composer is in residence during the event and works with the high school musicians as they perform one of his pieces for the Best of the West finale concert. It is truly a highlight for our students each year.
This past December during the Best of the West, I was having a conversation with Benjamin Taylor, the commissioned composer for the year. As we talked about various things that directors and composers talk about, Benjamin became more and more intrigued with ICS and the band program here. He then said, “Nathan, can we talk about maybe working together on something soon?!” The following week we spent a little over an hour on the phone talking further about the ICS band program and how it has been able to offer unique opportunities to our students. We went on to talk about the possibility of a direct commission for ICS. After speaking with various supporters of the ICS Music Department, the funds were lined up and we were able to commission a piece to be written for the ICS Symphonic Band. To the average person, a commissioned band piece doesn’t sound like a very big deal. On the contrary, it is a huge deal! When I mentioned to Leon Chodos (Utah Symphony bassoonist), Graeme Mutchler (Utah Symphony bass trombonist), and Josh Reimann (Eastmont Middle School Instrumental Director) that we were commissioning a work for the band they each reacted with great excitement. Leon stated, “Most music students never experience being part of a commissioned work throughout their schooling and even through the university level!” This year, the ICS band students in 5th through 12th grades get to be part of a once in a lifetime experience! One very special aspect of this commission is how Dr. Taylor is going to work through this with our students.
Often, when a band work is commissioned, the composer is paid and then writes the piece of music and sends it to the group to be performed. Not so with this piece! Dr. Taylor is going to do a couple of Skype sessions with our band students during class time this fall to introduce them to the process and give them an idea of how he goes about composing a piece of music. Throughout the fall he will keep us up to date with the progress of the piece. Then, in January, we will have a final Skype session where he will present us with the finished product. Our students will be able to have input on portions of the piece as well as naming the work. We will begin rehearsing the music in January in preparation for our Spring Instrumental Concert on April 30, where we will perform the world premiere of the work. Dr. Taylor will be coming to ICS to work with students on final touches and then be presented for the premiere concert. To learn more about Dr. Benjamin Taylor, visit his website at benjamintaylormusic.com.
By Nathan Hope, ICS Music Director