Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From a Hungarian's mouth

Ivan Fischer--we can learn a lot from him...

It seems almost ironic that Norman Lebrecht's latest interview would be with Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer--especially in light of my posting about the impact that country's musicians and conductors have had on our own cultural development.

There are many interesting insights here, both on the state of things in his own country, as well as what Fischer sees as the "dinosaur" of the American orchestra and its system of governance, operations, etc.  The podcast can be found here.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The end of summer

In the spring of 1995 several area musicians approached me with the concept of starting a community band in the Tri State area.  Organizations such as the Dubuque Wind Ensemble (an outgrowth of the Tri-College band) and the Dubuque Community Band had long since lay dormant and our city remained the largest Iowa municipality without a community wind organization.  On May 9, the band was "born," with a total compliment of 15 players, nine of whom were clarinet players!  Within a month, our numbers had grown to about 35, and we presented our first concert on June 15 at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  Music on that program included compositions by Gustav Holst, Richard Wagner, marches (including a snappy little Hungarian number), and two show tune medleys.  Two weeks hence, we moved to Dubuque's beautiful Eagle Point Park Bandshell and have been presenting our summer concert seasons there ever since.

Over the years, as the band has grown, we have taken the show on the road, offering concerts at Sinsinawa Mound, Cascade, Bettendorf, and a performance (with Maquoketa's Timber City Band) at the 2001 Iowa Municipal Band Festival in Boone.  That same year the ensemble performed as part of the community's Independence Day celebration with a concert at the Hawthorne Street Boat Landing and aired on Radio Dubuque.  Still, we have not strayed far from our roots:  offering the best and most varied programs to the community by musicians of the community.  The Tri-State Wind Symphony has been and will always remain Dubuque's Municipal Band!

For many years we counted on the largesse of Loras College for the use of rehearsal facilities, equipment and an extensive library of fine wind music.  But in the winter of 2008, following my departure from the Loras faculty, we were nearly forced to "fold up the tents."  But, thanks in no small part to the hard work of our Board of Directors and support of the community, the show went on.  Westminster Presbyterian Church offered us a rehearsal space in their large (and air-conditioned!) fellowship hall, as well as a rain site in the church's sanctuary.  That would prove more than beneficial as that summer brought about rains and major flooding throughout the state of Iowa.  We were only able to present two concerts out of doors that summer!  Our deepest thanks is also offered to both the University of Dubuque and Dubuque Senior High School for loan of equipment and other needs.  Since that time, through the efforts of our grant writer extraordinaire, Jean Cheever, and many others, the ensemble has now obtained most of our needed percussion equipment and increases to our music library, all of which are stored at Westminster during the off-season.

We are now approaching the conclusion of our eighteenth season of music-making.  As is our tradition, the final concert consists of the player's (and audience) favorites, culled from the repertoire offered from the current season.  I am always amazed that the cumulative program demonstrates a truly varied (and usually outstanding) mix of the best music from the season.  It also warms my heart that the concert includes at least one selection from every one of our summer programs.  This year's final concert includes:

John Philip Sousa:  Fairest of the Fair, with little doubt, the master's prettiest march.
Gustav Holst:  Suite in F (No. 2), a significant work of the band repertoire and the top vote-getter in this year's balloting.
Warren Barker:  The Magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber, a wonderful medley that includes music from Jesus Christ, Superstar; Evita, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera.
Frank Ticheli's lovely setting of Amazing Grace.
Jay Bocook's finely crafted medley from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (I live for the ending!)
Leroy Anderson's adorable Blue Tango.
John Higgins' Broadway Spectacular, including older hits from Hello Dolly, Chorus Line, and several others.
Rushmore, Alfred Reed's moving setting of America, the Beautiful.
Yet another Sousa march--was there any doubt?  Stars and Stripes Forever.
Charles Wiley:  Old Scottish Melody, our traditional season closer and an absolutely gorgeous setting of Auld Lang Syne. 

We bid the summer adieu on Thursday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A really good gig (if you can get it.)

Drew McManus, author of the Adaptistration blog, makes life easy for many of us as he goes through the IRS 990 reports filed by American orchestras and sorts out the compensation received by music directors, executives, concertmasters, etc.  Although I've included a few of these in past postings, here's the top ten:

  1. Philadelphia Orchestra: $1,827,801
  2. San Francisco Symphony: $1,801,627
  3. Boston Symphony: $1,321,779
  4. Dallas Symphony: $1,113,134
  5. New York Philharmonic: $1,082,277
  6. Cleveland Orchestra: $1,075,204
  7. Minnesota Orchestra: $1,035,622
  8. Saint Louis Symphony: $954,392
  9. Seattle Symphony: $699,048
  10. Baltimore Symphony: $685,812
That seems like a huge jump between no.s 8 and 9, but I still think I could live on 700K, even in Seattle!

A more complete report, plus a lot more information on orchestra administration and the state of our art can be found at www.adaptistration.com.

* * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the Boston Symphony is still sans conductor as no replacement has yet been named for James Levine, who announced his retirement in March 2011. The orchestra just presented its first Tanglewood medal, a "new tradition" presented to Seiji Ozawa for “his myriad contributions to the B.S.O.’s performance, touring and recording activities.” (Please, someone, give me a break! Greater than the legion of great conductors that have called Boston "home.")  James R. Oestreich writes in the same NY Times article mentions Andris Nelsons as one of the BSO's potential suitors although he has yet to lead the band in a subscription performance.

The question remains: how long can the BSO continue on without a Music Director to lead the orchestra forward.  Levine got off to a good start, burnishing the BSO sound from the too-long years (25 to be exact) of a conductor who basically went through the motions.

All of that being said, I'm still available.