As part of the TCNJ Wind Ensemble, Music major Andrew Unger traveled to Boston for the College Band Director’s National Association (CBDNA) Eastern Division Conference. Read more about his impressions of this three-day conference and of the TCNJ Wind Ensemble’s performances!
In the first week of March, the TCNJ Wind Ensemble made a three-day trip to Boston to perform at the College Band Director’s National Association Eastern Division Conference. In attendance were prominent band directors from around the country, while musicians of all stripes joined to contribute to the interdisciplinary program.
On the first day of our journey, the bitter cold could not distract us from giving a powerhouse preview performance at JP Stevens High School. We swiftly set up shop on the stage of the school’s auditorium, including a hub of electronics equipment and an extensive battery of percussion instruments, and presented Pulse for a large and appreciative audience.
The first event of our first morning in Boston was a presentation at the New England Conservatory on the beginnings of the Third Stream Revolution. The discussion featured Gunther Schuller and David Amram, two extremely important composers and horn players who are well known for their proficiency as both classical and jazz musicians. To hear these legends of 20th century music speak was as inspirational as it was awe-inspiring. Clearly young at heart, they both shared their early experiences as professional musicians and the difficulties and ridicule that they faced as interdisciplinary musicians.
I was so moved by David Amram’s passionate humanist sentiments that I decided to stay behind after the talk to introduce myself. I am typically hilariously clumsy in these social situations, but in this case I was unusually nervous. I fidgeted just a few yards away from Amram and a group of his friends for what seemed like hours as I attempted to work up the courage to speak to this living legend.
Once I finally approached him, his warm smile and kind words completely disarmed me. I could hardly speak, and my few stammering utterances, “thank you,” “advice,” and “scared,” were buried by his sincerity and willingness to calm my nerves. To meet such a prominent musician who had had the same insecurities and uncertainties that I have when he was my age re-instilled a long-lost feeling of hope in me. By the time he had dumped four of his inscribed CDs in my hands and firmly patted me on the back, I realized that we were the only two people left in the hall.
Thanking him one last time, I stumbled outside to learn that I was fifteen minutes late to pick up my horn from the bus. Had my friends not been thoughtful enough to keep my instrument safe and bring it to our next location, I might not have been able to retrieve it in time for the evening performance.
That afternoon was spent hearing the Gotham winds, attending a presentation on George Gershwin, and exploring the dining options in Boston. I was eager to get on stage. By the time I returned to our beautiful performance venue, the Fenway Center, we had learned that some musicians from the Hartt School were late, so the TCNJ Wind Ensemble was to perform first. As I warmed up for the sound check, I noticed that two composers whose music was featured on our program were present: John Mackey and Christopher Stark. It was then that the nerves began to set in; I realized that there were many prominent figures in the audience who were waiting patiently to hear us. And as I had sincerely expected, our concert was well-received and applauded vigorously. I was happy and relieved to see the smiling faces of my friends and colleagues after the performance. We were all equally impressed with Dr. Vickerman’s passionate conducting and the masterful showcase given by our faculty soloists. It was a job well done.
Afterwards, the Hartt School’s contemporary music group, the Foot in the Door Ensemble, gave an exciting and engaging performance of the music of composers including Ives and Andriessen. I was impressed with the cohesiveness and showmanship of the musicians. It was a chamber performance set to the utmost professional standard, and I admired especially the diversity of their program.
The next day began with a composer’s round table discussion, at which many of our faculty and students heard John Mackey speak about his approach to composition. Afterwards, looking for a change of scenery, I joined a group of close friends at the New England Aquarium. I saw a really big turtle.
On the bus ride home, it was satisfying to reflect on these incredible experiences that I shared with my classmates and professors throughout the weekend. We gave two outstanding performances, experienced the sights and sounds of the city, and heard the wisdom of some extremely renowned musicians. I am so grateful to have been a part of this exciting endeavor so close to my graduation. I will not soon forget this conference or the friends who joined me there.