Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bringing Back a Great Tradition

My home chapter of Sinfonia is celebrating its 65th anniversary this weekend (it's actually not until May, but school will be out by the actual day), and today featured the annual American Music Recital, AMR for short (since Sinfonia is an American music fraternity, one of its aims is to promote the music of our native land).

I was very impressed with the entire program; it ranged from duets to a small chorus to a full big band. I could tell that the ensembles had been rehearsing diligently all semester, as their hard work came to fruition today. I also had a great time visiting with several other alumni, including the guy from the '40s whom I'd met at the National Anthem tryouts a few weeks ago; he had some amazing stories.

I was happiest to see the big band, because I had started one of those in the chapter when I was in college. At first, our rehearsals were somewhat anarchistic, but after a while, we weren't getting much done. When I told the chapter president at the time that someone needed to be in charge, he asked if I would like to be that person, and I agreed, because it sounded like fun; I was also taking quite a few jazz courses at that point in time, so I felt like I could do the job.

We rehearsed for a number of weeks and then, just like today, we made our debut on the AMR, and then we scored a sweet slot opening for the One O'Clock and the Zebras at something called the Denton Spring Fling, a precursor of sorts to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival (which takes place next weekend, incidentally). Neil Slater (director of the One O'Clock) saw us, and he encouraged me to sign up for his jazz conducting class the next semester, because he saw me as a future lab band director. I took the class and did end up conducting lab bands (the Nine and the Six) for two years.

So as I watched the tradition (which had been dormant for several years) get revived today, it really hit me that the whole experience I'd had was really a life-changing one; were it not for that semester in front of the band, I probably would have just gotten a straight Master of Music Education degree instead of the one with a Jazz Studies emphasis that I ended up receiving, and who knows if I'd ever have been teaching any of the classes I'm teaching now or ended up on the faculty of a great jazz camp or anything like that. From such a small seed grew a fairly stout tree...

Only time will tell if today will go down as such a life-changing experience for any of the student ensemble leaders from today's recital, but it was great to make music among brothers, and that's what counts. Oh, and the big band, which performed "Count Bubba" (a challenging tune written by Gordon Goodwin for his Big Phat Band), did very well, especially considering they only got to rehearse about an hour a week. This tradition should continue for a while this time, as the chapter has way more jazzers than it did when I was active. I'm planning on doing some sort of guest solo next semester, which would tie the two eras together rather nicely. At any rate, I'm really proud of the guys.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No addicts unless your [sic] really good."--The line at the bottom of one of those ubiquitous "band needs lead singer" flyers around the UNT music building.

You could just hear the aftermath of those auditions: "Well, you're a total crackhead, but duuude, you sing great, so I guess we'll deal with least until you O.D."

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