SEATTLE—Before Microsoft, Starbucks and an NFL championship, this chilly city in the Northwest corner of America was a hotbed for great music.
Jimi Hendrix. Quincy Jones. Heart. Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Even Ray Charles got his first big break in the Emerald City.
Southwestern College’s Concert Band sent eight students to take part in the second Western International Band Clinic University (WIBCU) conference in Seattle, hoping to capture some of the magic of one of America’s most musically-innovative cities.
SWC’s band members were the only students from California and made up about 10 percent of the ensemble which spent 32 hours over three days to learn, rehearse and perform the movement of a famous symphony conducted by the composer himself.
WIBCU offered college and university students a three-day conference filled with workshops concerning music and education. Students rehearsed 32 hours which prepared them for a concert at the end of the conference.
SWC Concert Band Director Deborah Nevin said the event was “wonderful.”
“WIBCU gave our students a fantastic and unique experience to work with world class musicians,” she said. “They worked with two of the best flautists in the country, as well as one of the best composers of band music of our time.”
Composer Robert W. Smith has had more than 600 band pieces published, including three symphonies. One of his most famous pieces written for high school bands is “The Great Locomotive Chase,” based on a Civil War train heist.
Smith conducted the third movement of “Symphony No. 1, The Divine Comedy,” inspired by Dante’s poem.
“(It) is a very unique piece for this ensemble to play,” he said. “ It is a very powerful and emotional piece that can be put together by college musicians in the short amount of time we have together.”
On their first day in town, SWC students attended a concert by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, director of education for Conn-Selmer, a musical instrument manufacturer, gave a workshop on how to succeed in music as an educator. Perseverance is the key.
“Successful people don’t know how to not be successful,” he said. “That comes from being young and giving up giving up.”
Students then had the rest of the weekend filled with rehearsing and learning.
Smith said WIBCU was a marvelous opportunity.
“WIBCU is the ground floor for a major university event,” he said. “Students have a chance to collaborate with amazing musicians and conductors for three days. That is a lot of interaction for any kind of band conference.”
WIBCU Intercollegeiate Honor Band also premiered a piece called “Flute Flight” by Jim Walker.
A renown flautist, Walker has recorded music for more than 750 productions, including the film, “Titanic.” For “Flute Flight” the student band played background for solos by Walker and flute virtuoso Marianne Gedigian, professor of flute at the University of Texas. She has played on many film scores, including “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”.
Nevin said the experience was irreplaceable.
“They were able to work with world class musicians and perform with them,” she said. “How many students get these kinds of opportunities? Almost none.”
SWC students explored Seattle’s Experimental Music Project Museum and saw exhibits on pop culture, horror movies, music videos and instruments.
Nevin said the trip taught her students a lot the wide varieties of band music.
“It was fun and challenging putting a concert together so fast,” she said. “My students had a great time and I cannot wait to take them next year.”