Three Winnemucca high school students auditioned for and qualified to participate in the Western International Band Clinic in Seattle, Wash., Nov. 17-20. Matthew Munk and Christian Olson, who both play trombone, were chosen for the clinic, along with Gerritt Buskar, who plays French Horn.
Students were selected to participate with other musicians in one of four honor bands. Each band performed six pieces of music led by six different directors, who rotated through the groups.
“One of the things I really like about this event is that the students get to work with so many different band directors,” said Lowry High School Music Program Director Paul Criddle.
Christian Olson agreed, “It’s really interesting to see how the different directors approach the same issues,” he said. “Each of them solved similar issues in different ways.”
The honor bands rehearse six hours a day for two days. The third day of the clinic is reserved for their dress rehearsal and concert.
A guest soloist performs with each band. This year the internationally acclaimed clarinetist Julian Bliss was featured.
“He [Bliss] played incredibly difficult, even seemingly impossible music and made it look simple,” said Dave Munk, who directs the school bands and choirs that feed into the high school program. “He is a true master of his craft,” Munk added.
Criddle said he was impressed that Bliss was able to play seven major solo works completely from memory with no reference whatsoever; he could start anywhere in his music without a hitch.
Another great opportunity for the students is to be directed by a composer who is directing the music he composed. This year’s featured composer was Brian Balmages. He conducted his music “Spontaneous Beings” with the Winnemucca students.
“It’s interesting to to see the reaction and get feedback on music which is really his [Balmages] baby,” said Olson.
Buskar agreed, adding, “He [Balmages] got emotional hearing us, after we worked on it and had it ready to perform”.
In addition to student honor bands and rehearsals, attendees were treated to nightly concerts performed by top ensembles from around the country. Highlights included the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (LVA) Wind Ensemble, The Spring High school Percussion Ensemble from Texas and the Central Washington University (CWU) Jazz Ensemble.
“The Sping HS percussion Ensemble was absolutely unbelievable. The dedication and resources devoted to the program were beyond any university program that I’ve seen and their performance reflected the dedication and then some,” said Munk.
Criddle said he had been aware that the LVA Wind Ensemble was good but he was amazed at just how talented they were. Criddle is a big fan of jazz and said the CWU Jazz Ensemble performance included the best jazz improvisation that he had ever heard. The next morning band directors Criddle and Munk were able to take a class from their director. He taught them how he structures his program and teaches improvisation in order to achieve what they had done,
Band directors Criddle and Munk also participated in several clinics, many of which were given by the guest conductors. Topics included conducting technique, program administration, jazz improvisation, building student leadership, inspiring higher levels of musical understanding and performance.
Both said the Western International Band Clinic was a truly inspiring event for them and their students.