VIGNETTES FOR BAND
The 2012-13 Bandwagon Project
Enrollment formally closed in January 2013.
WHAT MEMBERS OF THE BANDWAGON GOT
- WORK PRODUCT: Performance materials for a suite/album of very short, useful, widely-varied, colorful character pieces newly scored for band that can be mixed and matched in concert.
- Duration: Average length 1-2 minutes each, with 8 to 10 in the set.
- Difficulty: Performable by advanced high school, community college, community/amateur, and college concert bands.
- Scoring: The recommended core scoring for community bands listed in Avshalomov’s online band scoring survey Findings published in the Fall 2012 NBA and ACB Journals.
- Formal Completion: Performance materials provided to participating organizations by early September 2013.
- PERKS: Payment of the entry fee secured for each group:
- Unlimited, royalty-free performance rights to the piece in perpetuity—for your ensemble.
- Permission to make archival audio and video recordings of your performance(s) of the piece, and to post or share them online.
- Permission to include such recordings on promotional CD’s, DVD’s, or other digital distribution media distributed or sold in support of your organization.
- Credit: All participating ensembles were listed in the published score and on the composer’s website.
- PERFORMANCE: Participating bands were asked to commit to perform the new commissioned work at least once, in whole or part, within the first year or season after receiving their set of performance materials.
- INVESTMENT: $100 USD per community or college group, for .pdf performance materials.
- Advanced high school bands who wished to participate could do so for $75 for pdfs.
- UPGRADE: For an additional $50, a participating group also received a basic set of printed materials with standard multiples (in addition to the .pdf masters), and a hand-autographed letter of recognition from the composer.
- PAYMENT in advance (by the end of 2012) was requested. If an organization’s budget cycle prevented this, upon request the composer accepted later payment on a case-by case basis. They could pay via PayPal or by check.
- FEEDBACK: The composer also provided conductors, performers, and listeners the opportunity to send him comments and feedback on the new piece and the experience of commissioning it, rehearsing and performing it, and hearing it.
STORY IN THE COMPOSER’S WORDS
I cut my teeth as a band composer while serving in the USAF Band in DC under the legendary Col. Arnald D. Gabriel in the 1970s (and then as a conducting grad student . . .
at the University of Washington with the Wind Sinfonietta under master teacher Walter Welke, who encouraged me to score my “Siege” and then sagely made me get up and conduct the premiere). The Air Force Band in those days could play *anything (still can at last hearing in 2013), and I developed champagne tastes working with them and wrote some challenging (though accessible) works for full symphonic wind ensemble. They premiered several of these, and my band works got some performances and readings over the years, but many mid-range bands either found them tricky to learn and bring off, or couldn’t even try them because they were scored beyond the group’s instrumental compliment. Meanwhile I had begun focusing increasingly on writing vocal music, particularly choral works.
Fast forward to 2011, when I started promoting all my compositions much more vigorously via the Web and notified thousands of bands of my works. For many community/amateur bands, they hit same problems: they liked the music, but professional skills and musicianship were needed, or they were too fully scored. What to do? I decided that it was time to address this “underserved population” with some substantial concert music that played to their strengths. But I needed more information.
THE SURVEY AND PUBLICATION– So, early in 2012 I devised and ran an online survey to poll community bands about their actual instrumentation and . . .
numbers. For my own purposes as a composer, I also included a few general questions about how they (and their audiences) handled certain modernisms such as odd keys/modes, modest dissonance, and changing polymeters. David Bailey, conductor of the Hollis Town Band, Hollis, NH, whom I had befriended via the Community Bands List, firstname.lastname@example.org, helped me with the wording. 150 band conductors responded, and a picture emerged. I wrote up the results, which culminated in recommended core scoring guidelines for composers and arrangers who want to write for the average community band. I shared the Findings via email with scores of band conductors who responded to my announcements. All were enthusiastic and considered it a worthwhile and useful service. As a consequence, I was fortunate enough to find receptive publishers, and my Findings article appeared in both the NBA and ACB print Journals in the fall of 2012! (Special thanks to Art Himmelberger and Nancy Michalek, ACB Publications Coordinator, and Linda Moorehouse of the NBA.)
THE COMPOSITION AND CONSORTIUM - Along the way I conceived the notion to score a new piece for this “safe” band configuration (at a difficulty level . . .
also manageable by advanced high school, community college, and college bands). I decided to make it a suite/album of very short, useful, widely-varied, colorful character pieces newly scored for band that can be mixed and matched in concert. And I decided to see if we could develop a broad, low-cost, national (possibly even international), large commissioning consortium to underwrite my time and costs to produce it. David B. offered to help, and we first elicited early commitments from 6 anchor bands around the US among conductors we knew:
These are the intrepid souls who signed up right away:
- Columbus State Community College Band, Columbus, Ohio, Thomas Lloyd, Director
- University of Rhode Island Concert Band, Dr. Brian M. Cardany, Conductor
- Linfield College Band, McMinnville, OR, Joan Paddock, Conductor
- Hollis Town Band, Hollis, NH, David Bailey, Conductor
- Tarleton State University Band, Stephenville, Texas, Dr. Anthony Pursell, Conductor
- Pomona Concert Band, Pomona, CA, Linda Taylor, Conductor
THE ANNOUNCEMENT - Then in late September of 2012, we announced the launch of the consortium to thousands of bands via the magic of the Internet. The results were very encouraging . . .
acceptances quickly started to come in, many sent from people’s iPhones . . .We enrolled another 19 US Bands–and one in Italy, (all listed below) for a total of 26. Several bands invited me to guest-conduct their performances of the new work. People were excited about it.
- College of the Holy Cross band, Worcester, Massachusetts, Nicholas McKenzie, Conductor
- St. Xavier University Band, Chicago, Illinois, Jeff Malecki, Conductor
- Palos Verdes (CA) Symphonic Band, David Stanton, Music Director
- Band of Long Island (BOLI), Michael Flamhaft, Conductor
- Blackstone Valley Community Concert Band, Uxbridge, MA, Kathleen Penza, Music Director/President
- Marietta College Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Marietta, Ohio, Professor Marshall C. Kimball, Director of Bands
- Phoenix (AZ) Community Band, David Frateschi, Founder/Music Director
- SUNY Orange Band, NY, Kevin Scott, conductor
- Nicholls State University band, Thibodeaux, Louisiana, Greg Torres, conductor
- Shorewood High School Wind Ensemble, Shoreline, WA, David Johnson, conductor
- Concordia College band, Moorhead, Minn., Nathaniel Dickey, conductor
- Los Alamos (NM) Community Winds, Ted Vives, director
- California State University Los Angeles Band, Dr. Emily A. Moss, Director
- Cottonwood Community Band, Cottonwood, AZ, Will Norris, Conductor
- Italian Heritage Center Band, Portland, Maine, Nina K. Oatley, Conductor, Music Director
- University of North Dakota Wind Ensemble, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Dr. James Popejoy, Conductor
- Westchester Symphonic Winds, Tarrytown, NY, Curt Ebersole, Conductor
- Valparaiso University Band, Valparaiso, Indiana, Dr. Jeff Doebler, Conductor
- Bridgewater College Symphonic Band, Bridgewater, Virginia, Dr. Christine Carrillo, Director
- Banda di Nepi, Italy, Gianni Bannetta, Music Director
This was shaping up to be an exciting project, and I worked hard to produce an enjoyable and useful piece.
ALL BANDS BRAG: Next, we encouraged all the participating bands to use every means they had, particularly online social media—
both for the bands and individuals in the bands—to publicize their participation in this event and how they feel about it. And to tell conductors and members of other bands about it, and invite them to “Get On the Bandwagon.”
Then I made my final pick of the 10 short pieces to go in the first set (I had sketches for up to 30), finished scoring the music, and provided the performance materials to our early birds.
PRIZES, PERFORMER AND AUDIENCE RESPONSES - Across the 2013-14 season and beyond, premieres started happening. The response of players was . . .
good–and interestingly enough, different bands had different favorites in the set. Audiences also seemed to enjoy them. And then I submitted recordings and scores of the Vignettes to two contests– Sul Ross State University (Texas) and Hillcrest Wind Ensemble (San Diego)–and took a prize in both!”
WIDER CIRCLES - Of course I would be thrilled if the social networking and online sharing helped get our new piece out to an even wider group . . .
of bands for further performances and guest conducting opportunities. Some advanced bands in the group have also decided to try some of my “harder” pieces, which are also attractive and fun to play. You can check them out on this website!
And in the long run I would like to do a second consortium that produces another new work–perhaps a second album/suite–or perhaps something completely different!”