2014 Midwest Clinic

We're just back from an invigorating trip to the Midwest Clinic held every December in Chicago. This international conference for band and orchestra ensembles and educators features clinics by leading educators from around the world as well as numerous performances by student and professional ensembles, including many of the U.S. Armed Forces ensembles.

Highlights for us at the Clinic include ... 

The U.S. Navy Band's clinic on the "Carl Fischer Journal Project," which offered a glimpse of their efforts to republish online wind ensembles scores first published in the journal about 100 years ago. Currently available for free download are 13 full scores and parts from over 400 originally published in the Journal! And attractive arrangements these undoubtedly are. While we don't usually find wind arrangements of original orchestral masterpieces appealing, the Egmont Overture arrangement (as performed by the Navy Band, of course) did not disappoint. We were also interested to learn of the Journal's existence as an interesting parallel and precedent for what we aspire to do with Blink - get new sheet music into the hands of as many players as possible! 

We also thoroughly enjoyed the performance of one of the featured ensembles at the Clinic - the Saitama Sakae Wind Orchestra of Japan. This high school ensemble founded by Minoru Otaki wowed the audience with their expressive and virtuosic performance of a wide variety of repertoire and styles, including: the U.S. premiere of Julie Giroux's "Paprikash" (yes the American premiere of an American composer's work by a Japanese ensemble touring the U.S.); an arrangement by Toshio Mashima of Vittorio Monti's popular "Csardas," here for marimba and band with student Yae Aso as the stunning marimba soloist; and a moving performance of Hirokazu Fukushima's "Eternal Memoir - Saga of the Lucky Dragon," which recounts in music a series of paintings by Ben Shahn that preserve the memory of the Japanese fishing boat and crew (the Lucky Dragon) contaminated by U.S. nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1954.

Our initial interest in the Clinic was to attend the new music reading sessions - for Orchestra, Jazz and Concert Band ensembles. While we may contact composers and publishers of some titles about submitting to future issues of Blink, we also think this is a unique opportunity for composers to consider promoting their own work. The current system is that every publisher exhibiting at the Clinic can feature a selection or two from their catalog on the reading session. While major publishers were certainly represented, there were smaller publishers and even independent composers exhibiting at the Clinic. While the U.S. Air Force Jazz Band - "Airmen of Note" - certainly 'sold' the showcased jazz selections as well as any ensemble could, we were particularly drawn to the nature of the reading Orchestra, which was solely made up of educators from the Chicago area. imagine not only promoting your music to attendees of the session, but also having 60-70 teachers actually play your music and make programming decisions based on their readings! One caveat: 'new music' in this case could mean any new publication, such as a new arrangement of a standard classical piece. But again, if composers are promoting their own music (and work with their publishers to promote their music), then they too could be featured on the reading session.

In addition to these three 'official' reading sessions, one invited clinician, Ingrid Martin, presented her own session "Secrets from Down Under," featuring new band music by Australian composers. -An interesting alternative to consider for promoting music from a specific region.

The time may also have come for 'orchestra' or 'band' to be interpreted broadly to include world music ensembles, such as Japanese gagaku, Indonesian gamelan, or West African drumming ensembles. The deadline for clinic and performance proposals is March 9, 2015.

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