Getting to Know...Ben Wareham!

In this next edition of "Getting to Know our MMC members," Ben Wareham steps up to the plate! Ben spends A LOT of time at Grand Street Campus—not only does he play in all three ensembles, but he's the assistant conductor of KCCB! (You may also recognize him as the guy who hates those square-backed chairs...) He took some time out of his jam-packed musical schedule to share his favorite MMC memories and his star turn in his middle school jazz band. 

In the middle, with GSCB members Phil Engel and Matthew Cain

In the middle, with GSCB members Phil Engel and Matthew Cain

Name: Ben Wareham 

Occupation: Director of Bands at MS 50 in South Williamsburg; guest conductor for KCCB

Instrument(s): Trombone, Bass Clarinet, Bari Sax, Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Bassoon

What’s your favorite thing about your day job? My favorite thing about my day job is watching the joy in young people growing from knowing nothing about playing music into becoming musicians.

Which ensemble(s) are you in and for how long? GSCB: 3 years; BKWS: 2 years; KCCB: 1 year

How did you get started with the MMC? I took a summer workshop and ended up working in a group with GSCB trumpet player Mari Eli. She told me about the group, which I was then reminded of by a colleague at my school because KCCB director Jasmine Britt used to have my position at MS 50. The rest is history.

What is your favorite MMC memory? All of the performances have been memorable, and band camp is a metric ton of fun, but performing at Carnegie Hall with GSCB is an experience that tops them all for now. Especially the post-show sing along with the German band we shared the stage with.

What’s your favorite piece of music you’ve ever played? The St. Olaf Band’s first performance of La Fiesta Mexicana by Herbert Owen Reed in Guanajuato, Mexico on borrowed instruments because our truck wasn’t allowed across the border.

What was the last concert/musical/ cultural performance you saw? Flying Lotus

Favorite holiday song? Little Drum Machine Boy by Beck

What’s your typical Sunday routine? Wake up, have some coffee and food before I head to the Brooklyn Music School to co-conduct the ISO Concert band with Laurel Stinson. Then head
home and do as little as possible during one of the few stretches of down time I have during the week.

Give us a New York recommendation: The Market on Lafayette in Bedstuy. Very awesome, proper Chinese food. Handmade dumplings, Lou Rou Fan, noodles, etc. All delicious.

Finish this sentence: "I knew I was a musician when..." ...I got a thumbs-up from my middle school band director, Mr. James, when I snuck in the horn line from Jungle Boogie into a solo during a jazz band concert in 8th grade.

Posted on December 12, 2017 .

BKWS and GSCB Presents: Warhorses

We're just a few days away from our holiday performance of Warhorses, this Saturday, December 16 at 7 PM! Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Grand Street Community Band have a packed program planned! 

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Grand Street Community Band will bring some holiday cheer to the Grand Street auditorium as they perform Rhapsody on Christmas Carols by Claude T. Smith; The Eighth Candle by Steve Reisteter; Buglers Holiday by Leroy Anderson; In the Bleak Midwinter by Gustav Holst; O Magnum Mysterium by Morton Lauridsen; and Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. 

Brooklyn Wind Symphony will continue the festivities with their performance of Slava! by Leonard Bernstein; Figures Sonores by Henk Baddings; First Suite in Eb by Gustav Holst; Elegy for a Young American by Ronald Lo Presti; and Symphony no. 3 by Vittorio Giannini. They've also invited Cythia Johnson Turner as a guest conductor. 

We're looking forward to continuing our jam-packed tenth anniversary season and sharing our hard work and passion with all of our family and friends! There will be a suggested donation of $10 at the door. A reception will be held at Matt Torrey's after the performance! 

Posted on December 11, 2017 .

Getting to Know...Allison Duggan!

We're settling into our second cycle, and are hurtling full-speed ahead into the holiday season and the end of the year! Hard to believe it....but let's take a minute to step back and get to know some of our amazing MMC members! 

Allie Duggan plays bassoon with Grand Street Community Band and also volunteers her time on the social media and marketing teams. Read on for Allie's favorite piece of music, and see if you agree with her pick for best pizza in all of New York! (Bold move, Allie!) 

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Name: Allison (Allie) Duggan

Occupation: Music Research at Vaco at YouTube, composer/sound designer

Instrument: Bassoon (I also sing, play saxophone, piano, novice clarinetist, and I'm an avid ukulele learner)

What’s your favorite thing about your day job? Composing is something that is a part of my daily life. When I have a project, my favorite part is getting to know the story; whether it is a film, play, or writing instrumental music: what is there to convey and highlight?

I recently joined Vaco at Google, and I love it! My favorite part is being around musicians and around friendly, happy people! Also free AMAZING food and gaming rooms.

How long have you played with MMC? This is my third, amazing season with Grand Street Community Band.

How did you get started with MMC? I filled in for a bassoonist for Brooklyn Wind Symphony, and was so happy to actively play bassoon (and with challenging but amazing literature at that) and really feel like part of a family.

What is your favorite MMC memory? Playing Carnegie Hall; and being at rehearsal after last year’s election, hearing that our agenda as citizens and musicians will continue to create stories through the creation of music.

What’s your favorite piece of music you’ve ever played? Oh wow, way too many! I love playing Beethoven Symphony #7, Sorcerer’s Apprentice (I think by law I have to), West Side Story, Blue Shades by Frank Ticceli.  I think my all time fave is “Watchman Tell Us of the Nighttime.”

What was the last concert/musical/cultural performance you saw? I see shows all the time as someone working close to the industry, but I saw Waitress and my heart is so full!

Favorite Thanksgiving side-dish? My dad’s garlic mashed potatoes.

What’s your typical Sunday routine? It’s my only day off, so I wake up late, drink tea and read/watch a tv show, go to voice lessons, catch up on homework, compose and practice, make a huge dinner for the week, and then in bed by 10:30.

Give us a “local” New York recommendation: So, the best pizza is right by Piano’s in Manhattan. Literally any pizza place you will be in heaven. I also recently found a bar on Grand Street in Brooklyn that has skee ball, live music and drawing nights. Little spaces like that make you feel intimate in a busy city!

Finish this sentence: "I knew I was a musician when..." I was 5 years old and during a car trip I was making up songs the whole way. After getting home, my mom told me that kids my age don’t do this, and I knew I was special.

The first time I really knew was when I had my Bat Mitzvah. My cantor had surgery on her vocal cords, and last minute I had to sing my entire ceremony. I learned each song fast, and felt amazing! However, I felt each note I sang, each meaning, each lesson in the verses. I knew from there on out, performing and music wouldn’t just be my life, but my livelihood.

Posted on November 20, 2017 .

David Maslanka leaves the world transformed

By Alyssa Pry

David Maslanka was a prolific composer who impacted the wind band community not only through his music, but through his presence, as a musician and as a person. The people who knew him or were lucky to work with him seemed to be pulled into his orbit, spinning through his musical stratosphere.

David Maslanka. Photo courtesy of Sue Rissberger Photography

David Maslanka. Photo courtesy of Sue Rissberger Photography

When he sadly passed away this summer, the outpouring of love for such a giant in the wind band community seemed to be endless. For his son Matthew, seeing his father’s impact expand so wide was an overwhelming experience.

“I’ve been working with [my] dad and his music basically my whole life. And there’s been an understanding that people who listen to his music were transformed by it,” Matthew said. “But it’s usually one person at a time, or one group at a time. It was an overwhelming thing to see everyone feel that at once.”

“This has been an opportunity for everyone to write their stories,” he continued. “For them to say, ‘This is what he meant to me.’ It’s very powerful.”

Matthew worked with his father since he was just ten years old, photocopying musical scores to send to band directors. They travelled and worked together throughout David’s career, and Matthew will continue to share his legacy with the music community.  

“I’m very likely the person that knows the most about his music in the world,” Matthew said. “It is up to us now to move his music forward, and keep bringing it to people.”

Matthew Maslanka

Matthew Maslanka

“I can’t fill his shoes. [But] I can provide direction and instruction for people who are interested in performing the music. I can continue publishing and get the music out to people,” he said.

For Matthew, it’s a large undertaking. David composed more than 150 pieces of music over his career, which spanned decades. But throughout his vast repertoire is a common thread: the music’s power to transform.

“[His music] allows people to transform themselves through the work,” Matthew said. “That people can feel this connection is a testament to how well he’s able to transform them.”  

"He kept opening himself up further and deeper to see what the universe had to say to him, and then he wrote that down."

This skill came from a deeply personal place, Matthew said. His father spent a lot of time at his home in Montana going for long walks and meditating. Matthew says this allowed David's mind to be open and focused.

“There was a deep fulfillment he got through his compositions, and a deep connection he had to the universe,” Matthew said.

“There is a thing about, when you look at great art—timeless masterpieces—you get something new every time you see it. You pay attention. You get a greater understanding of it,” he said. “That’s where he lived. He kept opening himself up further and deeper to see what the universe had to say to him, and then he wrote that down.”

When asked if his father saw composing as his job, Matthew paused, considering his father’s dedication to his art.  

“The word “job” feels weird associated with this. This was the way that he was,” he said. “When you talk about his work ethic, one of the central ideas was to show up everyday, and to create a space for the music to happen. He’d go to his studio, and give the music space to show up. If nothing happened, then that’s what happened, but he put in his attention and presence.”

Grand Street Community Band will be performing Maslanka’s work, “On This Bright Morning” at their fall performance of Our Favorite Things. Working with the Metropolitan Music Community was a highlight for Matthew and his father, and one Matthew hopes to continue into the future.

“My dad believed in what Jeff [Ball] was doing with the group. He saw someone who was committed to making great music and he believed in what they were doing with the community,” Matthew said. “I’ve been able to be apart of that development over the last few years. I’m glad to be apart of it.”

Posted on October 31, 2017 .

2 weekends of music to kick off MMC Season 10!

We're so excited to present two weekends of performances from our Metropolitan Music Community ensembles! This is a banner year for MMC—we're celebrating our 10th year as an organization, and have an exciting schedule packed with concerts throughout the 2017-18 season!  

Kicking off the season are Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Kings County Concert Band, who will be performing this Saturday, October 28 at 3 PM in a joint concert, "Americana." 

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Brooklyn Wind Symphony will be performing Asimov’s Aviary by Joel Puckett, Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein, City Trees by Michael MarkowskiFive Cabaret Songs by William Bolcom, Solitary Dancer by Warren Benson, George Washington Bridge by William Schuman and Commando March by Samuel Barber. A packed program from BKWS! 

Kings County Concert Band will kick off their second season with MMC and will be performing An American Fanfare by Rick Kirby, Kentucky 1800 by Clare Grundman, Bloom by Steven Bryant, Alligator Alley by Michael Daugherty, Before the Sun by Julie Giroux and A Zillion Nickels by Samuel Hazo. This is sure to be a stellar start for MMC's newest ensemble!  

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Then, next Saturday, November 4th at 7 PM, Grand Street Community Band will be joined by Manhattan Wind Ensemble in a performance of "Our Favorite Things." GSCB will be performing Jazz Suite #2 by Dimitri Shostakovich, Sleep by Eric Whitacre, On This Bright Morning by David Maslanka, Scootin' on the Hardrock by David Holsinger and Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst. 

Both concerts have a suggested donation of $10, and will be held at Grand Street Campus High School. We can't wait to share our talent and love for this community with you over the next few weeks! 

Posted on October 26, 2017 .

Bravo! Grand Street Plays Carnegie!

Congratulations to the Grand Street Community Band on an INCREDIBLE performance at Carnegie Hall last Tuesday. The energy from the band was magnetic - from the bombastic brass fanfare in Gandalf to the frantic, edge-of-your-seat conclusion of Vesuvius, our program thrilled the audience, who rose to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation! What an incredible way to end another fantastic year with the Metropolitan Music Community....it'll take a while for the adrenaline and emotion of Tuesday night to wear off!

A picture says 1,000 words, and our members took plenty! Here's a slideshow from the night below, and thank you to everyone who made this incredible performance possible. From the board and staff, to our fearless and fearsome leaders Brian and Laurel, to the amazing musicians of GSCB: Congratulations to all! 

Posted on June 16, 2017 .

Nowhere To Go But Up, with Isaiah Figueroa

By Alyssa Pry

Think of the first time you picked up your instrument. Try to remember the sound (or noise?) it made when you first managed to play a note. Now fast forward two years. You sound...better? You’re learning, you’re making progress. But are you performing a solo in front of a packed house at Carnegie Hall? Are you zipping through cadenzas and 16th-note runs while a 100-piece band accompanies you?

Probably not.

Unless you’re Isaiah Figueroa.

Figueroa is a senior at Grand Street High School and began playing the euphonium just two years ago. On Tuesday, June 13th, he’ll be making his Carnegie Hall debut when he performs Pantomime with Grand Street Community Band.

“Originally I was supposed to play [the piece] for Memorial Day, but Mr. Worsdale brought up the idea for me to play it at Carnegie Hall with GSCB, and I decided that would be a much better idea,” Figueroa said with a laugh.

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Figueroa grew up in a musical family - many of his family members sing and play piano - but he had never seen himself as a musician until his choir teacher, Laurel Stinson, encouraged him to try.

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about music in general, even though it’s always been around me,” he said. “Sophomore year came and one of my friends was in the select choir run by Ms. Stinson, and she thought I had a lot of talent and she seemed to see a lot in me,” he said.

Stinson says she could tell right away Figueroa belonged in the band room.  

“I could hear from the way he sang that he probably had musical family members, grew up around music; [he has] natural musical talent,” Stinson said. “I asked if he was interested in learning an instrument and he said "sure". So he came up to the band room the next day during lunch.”

From there, his talent and his desire to learn seemed to spiral quickly.  

“He was always the first in my beginning band class to get settled and start warming up,” Stinson said. “It was during those first few minutes I heard his musical prowess emerge.”

Over the last two years, Figueroa has performed in several Grand Street ensembles, and with the ISO Symphonic Band and All-City programs; he was a finalist in the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium and Tuba Festival; and will be attending the prestigious Tanglewood Institute this summer for the second time. 

Listing his accomplishments and hearing him perform at such a high level after so few years of experience may shock and surprise people, but Figueroa sees his success from the vantage of what he’s put into it.

“I just started playing and then throughout the hours, I thought this is something I really wanted to do. So I started working harder and harder and progressing,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but I was happy, because I knew I was putting the work in.”

"I didn’t see too much of the value and I never wanted to do [music]. But after a while I started to see the change in myself and my view of the world."

When he graduates in June, he’ll head to SUNY Purchase to study performance and education, but this is just a scratch on the surface of his ambitions.  

“I want to record, I want to play with major symphonies, whether it’s with them or in front of them,” he said. “I want to do everything I can, everywhere.”

It’s only been two years since Figueroa dove into music, but the change it’s made in his life has been apparent to everyone around him.

“It seems like yesterday he was the quiet, poised Sophomore-in-a-Freshman-class who barely said a full sentence,” Stinson said. “The past few years have been like experiencing a time lapse video in real life!”

Figueroa has seen himself change, too. 

“I go to school at Grand Street and you see the people who teach there and the students who play; then you go to the 3rd or 4th floor, they don’t really care too much or see how valuable it is,” he said. “But I was just like them at one point; I didn’t see too much of the value and I never wanted to do it.

“But after a while I started to see the change in myself and my view of the world. Music is one of the things that bring people together in a sense,” he said. “It’s a way to express without words. It’s one of those things that will help anyone change.”

For Figueroa, the opportunity to play the euphonium and where it will lead him feels like fate. 

"Every challenging thing I have learned has made me feel almost naturally one with the instrument, as though me playing it was meant to happen."  

Grand Street Community Band performs at Carnegie Hall Tuesday, June 13th at 8 PM. Get tickets here.

 

Posted on June 8, 2017 .

An Artistic End to the 2016-17 MMC Season

The Metropolitan Music Community's schedule is filled to the brim with performances: May and June feature four performance dates for our three ensembles! 

Kings County Concert Band will end an amazing first year with their Spring Concert on Saturday, May 20 at 3 PM. Grand Street Community Band is preparing two final performances: An American Tapestry on Saturday, June 3 at 7 PM and Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, June 13 at 8 PM. Brooklyn Wind Symphony will close out their season with No Strings Attached on Saturday, June 10 at 3 PM. Mark those calendars, RSVP, and invite your friends! 

Social media is jam packed with beautiful art promoting these sure-to-be incredible performances! The MMC blog spoke with members of the design and marketing teams about the inspiration for their work, and you can see all of the pieces below! 

Flying into spring....

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Kate Kerbel: I began thinking about springtime in the sense of plants and animals and then found my way to Charley Harper. One of the first places I was exposed to his art was in an ornithology lab upstate surrounded by nature. He's known for his modern and colorful animal artwork - especially birds. He describes the musical song of the bird as his inspiration which resonated with us for the "spring concert". 

Ally Chapel: Charlie Harper 's birds scream spring and evoke nothing but joy. Charlie Harper wrote a lot of prose about nature; like the music of birds, animals, and [about] spring specifically; so I like that we included a bit of the prose in the program. 

 

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Creating "An American Tapestry"....

Alex Rice: I wanted to avoid making the concept art for this cycle too political, which led me to brainstorm something simple, like incorporating music notes into a map of America. I opened an image of a map in Photoshop and began drawing notes into the states on a new layer, then eliminated the map and made adjustments to my drawing to make it feel more cohesive. From there I brought the drawing into Illustrator to clean it up a bit and played around with colors. 

Whilst working I listened to a playlist of the music. I find that in general if I’m working on a design project that is music-related, listening to the music I’m designing for helps keep me focused and in the correct mindset.

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Modernizing a Classic....

Alyssa Pry: I liked the idea of contrasting the classical and ornate feel of Carnegie Hall with a modern and clean design. I don't have much of an artistic background, but I love doing layout design--it plays into my type-A, detail orientated personality! So I started working with the shapes and then incorporated simple typography.

Grand Street will be performing pieces from all three cycles, so I wanted to highlight the ensemble as a whole, using images, instead of working off of a specific piece of music as a central theme.

 

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Feeling Free...

Kate Kerbel: BKWS is playing pieces typically performed by string orchestras that have been transcribed for wind band. This imagery was a bit of a play on words: the images are created from a series of Degas' famous ballerina paintings - the organic form of the ballerina has no bounds and moves "with no strings attached".

My favorite piece that BKWS is performing this concert is Bernstein's Suite from Mass; we have a running joke about making it sound as light as a ballerina. 

 

 

 

 

Posted on May 19, 2017 .

Chris Coletti Checks the Box

By Alyssa Pry

What does it take to call yourself a professional musician? Is it attending Juilliard? Is it hearing yourself on the radio, or playing with a professional orchestra? Is it becoming a performer with a world-renowned ensemble?

Trumpet player Chris Coletti has checked all of those boxes, but his moment came much sooner. 

“As soon as I was paid, the day I deposited a check for playing music, I called myself a professional,” Coletti joked. “I was probably 14 years old.”

Coletti will be performing Anthony Barfield’s North Star with Brooklyn Wind Symphony at this Sunday’s MMC Modern Wind Symphony Concert. He may have been joking about that check, but Coletti takes his career seriously, and is quick to point out just how lucky he feels to do what he loves each day.

“It’s not a right that you become successful with a music career,” Coletti said. “Even if you’re the best, or you’ve worked the hardest, there’s so much luck involved, there’s a lot of chance, a lot of timing.”

And making it as a professional musician is not a straight shot to the top. 

“There’s really no path. You have to make your own path and that’s good news and bad news,” he said. “Obviously that’s really hard, but good news in the sense that if [you’re] not able to fit into a box or don’t follow a path of someone else if that’s not your natural inclination, you would be able to succeed.”

Despite the factors and challenges, Coletti has built an exciting professional career. He is a trumpet player with the Canadian Brass, and spends much of his year touring with the world-renowned quintet. But even joining the famed group strayed from the traditional musical path.

“The audition was not what most people would expect. It’s not an open audition. It’s really more like the way a band would find each other, because personality and chemistry is so essential,” he said.

Coletti met a former trumpet player while he was a student at Juilliard, and was asked to play on a recording. After meeting and performing together, Coletti realized what was really going on.

“We hung out, we played duets as trumpet players do,” Coletti joked. “And what I came to know later was that us playing together, it was almost like a secret audition,” he said. “The [Canadian Brass]  were looking for someone and they weren’t doing it the way they had in the past. They wanted their trumpet player to choose his partner. And that’s the way he chose to do it.”

Playing professionally has opened doors to many new experiences for Coletti, and performing with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony is an opportunity to merge many of his worlds. He and composer Anthony Barfield attended Juilliard together, and performing side by side with New York Philharmonic principal trombonist Joe Alessi is something Coletti is especially excited for.

“It’s a real thrill; it’s a real thrill to play Anthony’s piece and it’s a real thrill to play with someone I’ve idolized my entire life - Joe Alessi is one of the greatest brass musicians ever to live. So it’s an incredible opportunity for me,” he said.

"I think there’s always this feeling of self doubt. Am I really the real thing? Am I faking it?"

Committing to a career as a professional musician requires immense skill and confidence, both of which Coletti has in spades. But he said even he had his doubts about whether he could truly make it.  

“I think it’s possible that everyone goes through this, but I think there’s always this feeling of self doubt. Am I really the real thing? Am I faking it? Does everybody just think I’m ready but I’m really not?” Coletti said.

But surpassing the self-doubt has meant Colletti has found his calling. And he’s stayed true to a realization he had in high school that he’s made his reality every day.

“I auditioned for Laguardia School of Music and Art in Manhattan and that’s where I went, and that was really the moment I felt like I was around “my people” for the first time in my life,” Coletti said. “I really felt like everyone was really dedicated to whatever their art was. And I decided these were the kind of people I want to be surrounded with for my life.”

Posted on March 14, 2017 .

Into the Universe with Composer Anthony Barfield

By Alyssa Pry

Composer Anthony Barfield has his head in the stars.

“We all come from the same place, we’re all one - the question is, where do we come from?” he mused about his piece Red Sky, one of two pieces the MMC will be performing at Modern Wind Symphony on Sunday, March 19th.

Both Red Sky and North Star draw from Barfield’s fascination with what exists both around and above us.

“When I got into music and started traveling, I started seeing there were different religions and everyone believed that was their truth. I sort of had a big question mark in my life for, what is spiritualism to me? Where do we come from?” Barfield said. “That big question mark put me on a quest to find what the best meaning was for me. So by studying that, I became fascinated by the creation of us.”  

Aside from this deep exploration and introspection, Barfield finds himself firmly planted in this world as both an accomplished musician and talented composer. As a child growing up in Mississippi, it was a music teacher who pulled him aside after recognizing his talents.

“I always knew I could hear things a certain way. It was just sort of a gift,” he said. “So one day they called me in and said, Anthony, what is this note right here? And I told them, and they said, ‘Well you have what’s called perfect pitch.’ So that was cool to define.”  

His fascination and talent for music lead him to Juilliard, where he began studying trombone performance. But once he was there, he decided to focus on composition instead, a change he says happened organically.

“When you’re in a place like Juilliard, I never thought about it as, ‘Ok, it’s a really difficult school, I’m going to get through it and then quit [playing],’” he said. “It was a situation of being in the moment, living in the moment, soaking up as much as I could, regardless if it was trombone or composition, just as much art as I could, and running with it.”

For Barfield, this attitude has seeped into the way he approaches composition.

“I consider myself to be a creator,” he said. “I consider myself to be an emotional composer. So the organic part of it is that I try to make sure I’m attached to the piece emotionally.”

Grand Street Community Band will be performing Red Sky with trombone soloist Jon Whitaker, Professor of Trombone at the University of Alabama. The piece is based on the concept of the Big Bang Theory, and Barfield explained his process for how he wrapped his head around such a vast idea.

“I tried to get into the true feelings - the piece is about the creation of life as we know it,” he said. “So to get into it, I did a lot of meditation to steal the sense of creation. And then from there, I write down aural notes - [for example] the word ‘bang’ - something that will spark an idea. Then I come up with the chord structures and the melody comes from the chords.”

“That’s the most important thing for me - making sure I can stay true to who I am with my music.”

Barfield drew on similar inspiration when composing North Star, which Brooklyn Wind Symphony will be performing with soloists Joe Alessi, the principal trombonist with the New York Philharmonic, and Chris Coletti, the principal trumpeter with Canadian Brass.  The piece is based on the journey through the Underground Railroad and the way African Americans used the night sky to guide them to freedom.

“African Americans, because they could not read, would learn the patterns of the North Star and use those patterns in the sky from the Big Dipper as a way to follow the path,” he said. “They travelled at night and they basically used nature and the universe to help them escape.”

Barfield said North Star holds another, more current, political message, and says it was the first piece where he made a conscious choice to make a political statement with his music.

“It’s a time where there is a lot of police brutality going on, and we need a modern underground railroad for people who are being shot by police. I felt a strong connection with that,” he said.

For Barfield, the message and the music need to ring true to who he is.

“That’s the most important thing for me--making sure I can stay true to who I am with my music.”

Barfield says he’s been lucky to work with collaborators who respect his vision and give him the freedom to explore his ideas without restriction.

“Every piece, I just want to make sure I stay true to myself. I do appreciate that people give me flexibility, because that’s the only way that I will make a voice for myself.”

Happy Holidays from the MMC!

That's a wrap on another amazing year with the MMC! Hard to believe it's almost time to ring in 2017, but 2016 was an awesome year filled with music making and community. This year, our ensembles put on ten concerts, premiered symphonies and new band works, invited talented guest conductors to the podium, celebrated our amazing community with another awesome year at band camp, and expanded the MMC to include a brand new ensemble, Kings County Concert Band! The MMC is unstoppable...who knows what 2017 will bring? See you all on the other side, and have a happy holiday season!

Illustration by Rebecca Pry

Posted on December 21, 2016 .

Johan de Meij Trusts His Instincts

By Alyssa Pry

It’s 8:15 on a Monday night and Grand Street Community Band is warming up for the second half of rehearsal. Mouth pieces are adjusted; a spit valve is emptied. The hollow boingggg of the tympani reverberates from the back row. Music is shuffled—the line-up for the rest of the evening is Movements I and V of Symphony No. 1, The Lord of the Rings, by Johan de Meij.

The conductor comes to the podium and holds up a slim bound score, waving it in front of the band, before dropping it onto the stand.

“I don’t really need this,” he says, to laughter. And why would you, when you’re conducting one of the most well-known pieces of wind band repertoire—that you yourself composed?

Johan de Meij stood on the podium on Monday night and will be conducting his seminal wind band work, Symphony No. 1, The Lord of the Rings at MMC Winter Winds this Saturday, December 10th at 7 PM. By his own estimation, the symphony has been played thousands of times in the 29 years since he composed it.

“It immediately put me on the map as a composer,” de Meij said. “It really started to be played all over the world. It’s fantastic. I had no idea when I was writing it that it would be such a success—I could not predict that.”

The Lord of the Rings was de Meij’s first concert band work as a composer. He transitioned to composition after playing for several years with professional ensembles throughout the Netherlands.

“May 1, 1977 [was when] I got my first job as a euphonium player in Amsterdam. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since,” he said. “I started playing in a wind orchestra, [and] that inspired me to start writing myself.”

“When I told people I was writing a 45-minute symphony, people told me, ‘Forget it. No one is going to play it, it’s too long.’” 

He began composing The Lord of the Rings in 1982, but before he even sat down to write a melody, he knew what he wanted to hear.

 “I knew already that I wanted to write a large-scale substantial work for wind orchestra. This was in 1982, and there weren’t really any longer works than 16 minutes in the repertoire,” he said.

At first, his idea was not met with the enthusiasm he had hoped for.

“When I told people I was writing a 45-minute symphony, people told me, ‘Forget it. No one is going to play it, it’s too long,’” he said. “I said, ‘I know works that are five minutes that are too long, so let’s see what happens.’ And it turns out I was right.”

Those instincts paid off. The Lord of the Rings premiered in March of 1988 and catapulted de Meij to musical success. Just a year later, he won the prestigious Sudler Composition Prize, further cementing his place, and his symphony, in the wind band canon.

The five-movement symphony is based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and de Meij is quick to share the credit for his symphony’s success.

“I think if it was just called Symphony No. 1, I don’t think it would’ve been as popular. But making the connection with the famous book was the trick,” de Meij said.

"That piece saved my life in a very good sense."

Each movement is based on a character or event from the book, and are given themes, which are musically intertwined throughout.  

“It’s really scripted—it paints the picture of the main characters in a clever way,” de Meij said. “Every character gets their own tune, which makes it very recognizable. I think that explains the success of the piece. It’s contemporary and it comes from the heart.”

The success of his symphony opened the doors for de Meij, and he leapt straight through and hasn’t looked back. He travels around the world conducting and collaborating with musicians eager to bring his music to life, and that enthusiasm is what draws him to work with the MMC.

“I think it’s important to have great music going on in all parts of New York,” he said. “So that’s why I support [the MMC] as much as I can. And the level of playing has gone up so dramatically in the last five years—they’re really playing at a high level, which I love.”

With his symphony still being discovered by musicians across the world, interest in his music shows no signs of fading. And standing on the podium, his arms up, the music swirling around him, de Meij doesn’t seem to mind.

“That piece saved my life in a very good sense,” he said. “I’m convinced that when I close my eyes forever, the piece will still be played.” 

Posted on December 7, 2016 .

Winter Is Coming...

We're just a little under 3 WEEKS AWAY from the next concert in our MMC Season--Winter Winds, a joint concert with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony and the Grand Street Community Band. On Saturday, December 10th, we'll be warming up our cold fingers with a rousing rendition of  Dimitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture; thinking fondly of fall as we play  Eric Whitacre's October; getting a full blast of fire from Phillip Sparke's The Year of the Dragon; before leaving the chilly New York winds for a trip to space for Gustav Holst's Jupiter, from The Planets.

Thanks to Alex Rice for the beautiful artwork! Looking forward to a full afternoon of wonderful music! 

Posted on November 21, 2016 .

Second Annual MMC Costume Contest!

We're getting close to pulling back the curtains for MMC's first concert of the 2016-17 season on Sunday, October 29th at 3 PM with Things that Go Bump in the Night, Part II.

Our brand new ensemble, Kings County Concert Band will be premiering on the Grand Street stage with a seasonal-appropriate performance of David Holsinger's A Little Mystery Music. And MMC clarinetist Allison Heim summed up Brooklyn Wind Symphony's program as "a drunken Scotsman interrupting a witches' dance; snake-killing; pandemonium; and ya know, Bach's Toccata and Fugue." If that doesn't intrigue....

With all this spooky mystery and excitement in the air, we're getting in the Halloween spirit with the 2nd Annual MMC Halloween Costume Contest. Last year, BKWS bari sax player Anya Combs took the witch's crown for her awesome Edward Scissor Hands costume ...think you can top that? Send your photo to alyssapry@metropolitanmusiccommunity.org by NEXT WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26TH. Voting will open on the 27th and the winner will be announced on Halloween! Good luck! 

Posted on October 20, 2016 .

On the Podium—Jasmine Britt and Laurel Stinson

We've made it to our final edition of "On the Podium," and last, but certainly not least, is Kings County Concert Band conductor Jasmine Britt and Grand Street Community Band Assistant Conductor Laurel Stinson, who both recalled an inspiring rehearsal with composer David Maslanka as a musical highlight! Lucky them! 

Missed an installment? Read about Jeff and Kimberly here, and Brian and Frankie here! Thanks to all of our amazing conductors for sharing! 

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is...

I spend a great deal of time conducting beginning/intermediate level players so I'm always interested in finding works that have aesthetic value without being technically challenging. Some of my go-to works would be Timothy Broge's Sinfonia Six or David Holsinger's On a Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss

My Favorite MMC Moment is... 

Working with Dr. Maslanka on his Fourth Symphony at an open rehearsal with BKWS. It felt like the walls between composer, conductor, ensemble and audience had been broken down and we were all a part of a communal musical experience. Dr. Maslanka worked with the students at Grand Street Campus so it was great that they were included in that moment too.  

My (non-music!) related hobby is...

I started taking dance classes while I was at FSU. I took two semesters of ballet, a semester of modern dance and a semester of African dance. Since moving to NYC, I try to take a class here and there. I even convinced a group of friends to take a Valentine's Day tango lesson. Nothing helps you turn a music phrase better than dancing through one.  

I do what I do because...

I love music and I want to facilitate the music making of others. As much as I'm for musical appreciation, I believe strongly in music participation regardless of level or ability. I think I'm lucky that I get to expose my students to music performance and then at the end of the day, I get to get adults back into the fold at night.  

 

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is....

I can't  believe I have to pick one--that's just evil...because I love conducting music. Period. But if I must decide, I have to pick Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger. The six movements of the piece vary greatly in character and mood as well as embody the nature of folk music. This piece is a well balanced example of challenge for the player and the conductor alike while maintaining musical aspects that keep the audience member satisfied and inspired. Just GREAT music. 

My Favorite MMC Moment is....

Two separate occasions. My favorite moment was entering the stage at Carnegie Hall before Grand Street Community Band's performance in 2015. But my favorite memory comes from a rehearsal of David Maslanka's music with Dr. Maslanka himself. The time spent in that rehearsal refueled the inspiration and reminded me why I do what I do. 

My (non-music related!) hobby is....

Again with the picking one...GOLF! I love golfing and being outdoors just as much as I love music. But golf doesn't give the love back as music does. There are a lot of mental parallels between navigating the course successfully and leading from the podium--not to mention the peaceful nature of enjoying outdoors. 

I do what I do because…

I do what I love. During the teaching day, I primarily lead Core music classes and vocal music. Although I find this extremely satisfying, I'd rather be in front of an instrumental ensemble of any age. The adult musicians I get to work with every week remind me why I do what I do during the day. We get to bring art and beauty into the world--and have fun making music together! 

 

 

Posted on October 6, 2016 .

On the Podium—Brian Worsdale and Frankie Dascola

We're getting to know the artistic staff of the Metropolitan Music Community in our new series, "On the Podium." Last week, we met Jeff Ball and Kimberly Roof, who both conduct the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, and this week we're meeting Grand Street Community Band Conductor Brian Worsdale and Kings County Concert Band Assistant Conductor Frankie Dascola, who both share a love for an MMC favorite, the Holst Suite in E Flat! 

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is...

The Holst Suite in E Flat. It is in my opinion the epitome of writing for the idiom and I always enjoy conducting it. The life that an ensemble breathes into that work is so palatable. 

My Favorite MMC Moment is...

A tie between our first rehearsal and band camp 2015! There was something truly special about that first year of band camp and it has only gotten better. 

My (non-music related!) hobby is....

Christmas Decorating and in particular the design of my massive Christmas village. I started off with a small handful of pieces and since then it is like a city. I also enjoy antiquing. 

I do what I do because…

It is my way of contributing to the joy of life and I feel that we need more opportunities like this to remind us why we live in the first place. 

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is...

The 3rd Movement of the 1st Suite in E Flat. It's one of my favorite works in all of band literature. I enjoy the 3rd movement the most because of its complex textures and many moving parts. It is unlike any band work I have ever played--I studied [the whole piece] extensively in college and the 3rd movement changed the way I looked at band works in general. I love playing the movement and teaching everyone about its moving parts. 

I'm also intrigued by Illuminations by David Maslanka. It's the piece I want to conduct with an ensemble one day. The layering and textures are complex and the process to make the music work is the journey I'm most excited for, once I get a chance to program it. 

My Favorite MMC Moment is...

BKWS went to WASBE in 2015 and played La Fiesta Mexicana. Afterwards at the reception, Viet Cuoung came up to me and I just remember him being so happy. He said, "Oh my God Frankie, I just want to crawl into yours and Jasmine's sound!" That was incredible. I got to check off one of the many things on my bucket list by Viet's response is the best.  

My (non-music related!) hobby is....

I am an avid comic book reader and collect the works of Kurt Vonnegut. I'm currently reading my way through his novels in publication-order and then his sets of short stories and plays. My bookshelf only has comics and Vonnegut. I love his writing and it speaks to me on a deeper level than any other author.

I also enjoy amateur astronomy--I'm really good at astronomy facts that don't involve calculus and I'm obsessed with space. I attend frequent Astronomy Talks and constantly win at space/astronomy trivia! I also bike a lot...50 miles a week. 

I do what I do because…

It saved my life, and who knows, maybe I can save a few. 

 

 

Posted on September 30, 2016 .

On the Podium—Jeff Ball and Kimberly Roof

The Metropolitan Music Community is back for our ninth year! With a successful first week of rehearsals under our belt and over 220 members playing in our three ensembles, we have a dynamic and exciting year ahead of us! 

None of this would be possible without the tireless work of our conductors who bring the MMC to life each Monday, Tuesday, and now, Wednesday nights! Over the next few weeks, we'll get to know the people on the podiums--starting with Brooklyn Wind Symphony Conductor Jeff Ball and Assistant Conductor Kimberly Roof!  

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is...

David Maslanka's Symphony no. 4. It is a piece that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck - a truly amazing aesthetic experience. This piece is an incredibly difficult technical and emotional challenge for both myself and the ensemble musicians, but when it comes together - wow! It's the kind of piece I never thought I would get to conduct in my lifetime, which is what makes MMC and specifically a group like the Brooklyn Wind Symphony even more amazing. A longtime member of MMC and BkWS described our performance of this work in 2013 as a time "when the spirit was in the room". I think this is a perfect way to sum it up.

My favorite MMC memory is....

hard to choose so I'll pick two!

1. Performing H. Owen Reed's "La Fiesta Mexicana" at the WASBE Conference in 2015. We had work very hard on this exceptionally terrifying and challenging piece of the repertoire, so to perform it in front of a packed house of band conductors and musicians - nailing it - was awesome. I was so very proud of all the hard work both inside and outside of rehearsal that our musicians contributed. 

2. Performing on Euphonium on the first concert with the reformed Grand Street Community Band after the initial split for our organization. Community groups very rarely ever spawn additional ensembles, and to split in half as we did is even rarer. There were a lot of people who predicted failure for the new GSCB - which was a very real possibility. I am thrilled that the opposite happened and has continued to happen as we launch the Kings County Concert Band this fall.

My (non-music related!) hobby is....

Soccer. I've played my whole life (somehow I'm still terrible) and I continue to play in two competitive leagues on Thursday and Friday evenings, as well as pick-up games whenever I can find time. I'm also one of those crazy people that wakes up at 7 in the morning on Sundays to watch live games from Europe (go Arsenal!). 

I do what I do because....

making music is a vital part of human nature. I believe that it is a horrible side effect of modern society that most humans have stopped making music on a daily basis. Before the phonograph all households that could afford it had pianos, and those that couldn't afford it created folk songs, sang in taverns and participated in town or workplace bands. Humans have been making music much longer than recorded history, and maybe even longer than our species has existed. It is a vital part of feeling whole, and I strive to do what I can to bring the joy of music making back to as many people as possible. 

My favorite piece I've ever conducted is...

Anything by Percy Grainger--it's such good music to play and perform! Also, I like wind ensemble music that is modern and uses contemporary techniques and interesting harmonies. 

My favorite MMC memory is....

Definitely our WASBE performance. We've never sounded better and I don't think a community ensemble has ever put so much emotion, focus and love into a single performance. 

My (non-music related!) hobby is....

I compete in triathlons and I'm also a pretty good cook. 

I do what I do because....

I couldn't possibly imagine doing anything else. I love teaching music! 

 

 

Posted on September 22, 2016 .

Space for All—A New Ensemble Takes Shape

By Alyssa Pry

If you spend any time around people in the Metropolitan Music Community these days, the buzz is swirling around the Kings County Concert Band, MMC’s newest ensemble, which will have their very first rehearsal Wednesday, September 21st at Grand Street High School. KCCB will be joining the MMC roster with Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Grand Street Community Band, as the MMC continues to expand at a rapid and exciting pace!

Jasmine Britt, Kings County Concert Band's artistic director and conductor. 

Jasmine Britt, Kings County Concert Band's artistic director and conductor. 

At the helm of this brand new group is Jasmine Britt, who has played with both BKWS and GSCB, and was a founding member when the organization started in 2008. Now, eight years later, Britt finds it hard to believe how far it’s come.

“I had no idea it was going to grow this large,” Britt said with a laugh. “What I notice is there are a lot of motivated people in the group, and our musicians are the biggest asset, both musically and otherwise.  We get momentum going for one project and that helps with the next project.”

That momentum has been a driving force in the MMC since the beginning, and creating a new band was a response to the overwhelming and growing demand for musical opportunities for non-professional musicians.

“The original artistic plan [of the MMC] is we want to be in a position where we don’t ever have to turn anyone away,” Britt said. “So we had plenty of people interested in playing, we just didn’t have anywhere for them to go. So the third ensemble was imminent, just to stay true to the mission of never turning anyone away.”

Over the past several years, BKWS and GSCB have continued to grow both in size and in skill level—another hurdle the MMC hopes to straddle by creating a new ensemble that caters to musicians who bring their passion and love for music but may feel intimidated or nervous to join a group.

“There are many people that put the horn away for many years—can we create a space for those people, who maybe didn’t continue through high school or didn’t get the chance to play in high school?” Britt said.

Britt also sees KCCB as an opportunity for players in the MMC’s existing ensembles to play new instruments and stretch their artistic talents.

“Basically we have the opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone—we have a place where experienced musicians can explore secondary instruments, and at the same time we can create a safe music space for people to rediscover the skills they had.”  

Starting this project from the ground level may be intimidating, but for Britt, who is also a band director at Grand Street High School, KCCB is an extension of what she is already dedicating her life to do.

“It’s really nice to really have everything you want—to create art in a really viable and vibrant space, and at the same time be creating a community."

“This is the one thing I do for a living. I spend a lot of my musical time doing sectionals and working with this particular level of musician,” Britt said.

She’s been spending time listening to musical programs to curate a selection of works that will highlight the identity of the new ensemble—as a space for musicians to learn and express their musical personalities at varying skill levels.

“What I’m thinking for Kings County Concert Band is exploring things you would get from first year players to something a solid high school player can perform. [But] I don’t want something for kids. I want to keep the dignity of the musician and everything age appropriate, but also keep it skill appropriate,” she said.  

Putting together this puzzle has been a challenge, but it also carries the thrill of what the MMC is capable of providing to eager musicians. And what grounds KCCB and Britt’s goals for her new ensemble are the same values that have created such a vibrant and welcoming community over the last eight years.

“You’re creating a community. We’re a city of 8 million people, yet it can get lonely if you don’t have a group you can connect with,” Britt said. “It’s really nice to really have everything you want—to create art in a really viable and vibrant space, and at the same time be creating a community. So it’s a win-win all around.” 

Posted on September 15, 2016 .

MMC Band Camp 2016!

What an incredible weekend at band camp! For the second year, the Metropolitan Music Community gathered at French Woods Performing Arts camp for an inspiring and magical Labor Day weekend. We hit the ground running on an exciting musical program for Grand Street Community Band's first cycle, and enjoyed the fresh air and beauty of the Catskill Mountains! We swam, hiked, bowled, ate, drank and laughed our way through the weekend, and then loaded up a big yellow bus back to the city, relaxed and ready for a brand new year with the MMC! Special thanks to everyone who made this weekend possible, especially GSCB conductor Brian Worsdale, whose generosity is unmatched! 

In true summer camp fashion, check out a scrapbook of our weekend adventures, and we'll see everyone in a few weeks! Reminder that rehearsals kick off September 19th (GSCB), September 20th (BKWS) and September 21st (KCCB) from 7-9 PM at Grand Street Campus High School. 

Click image to enlarge. 

Posted on September 8, 2016 .

MMC Artist Series: Michael Cuadrado Sees Another World

We're wrapping up another incredible year with the Metropolitan Music CommunityBrooklyn Wind Symphony will be closing out the 2015-16 season Saturday, June 11 at 7 PM with their Spring Concert, a joint-program with the New York City All-City High School Concert Band. BKWS will be performing Aurora Awakes by John Mackey and Colonial Song by Percy Grainger, among other works.  

Our final Artist Series is Grand Street Community Band clarinetist Michael Cuadrado. Michael is a Drawing major at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and has been playing with the Grand Street Community Band for the last three seasons. Michael is an incredibly talented artist, and was given the artist's blessing/curse of having free-reign over the direction of the program art, after being told this concert had "no theme." Read about how Michael's piece took shape, and see the piece in progress along with much more of Michael's work in the slide show below! 

Finding a Feeling...

"When I was first approached to do a commission, I was told that this was the only cycle that didn't have a theme. That worried me a little, but I knew I could put something together. So this may have been just how I felt, but the pieces from this cycle posses a feeling of [being] otherworldly. They have these elements of being about about greater things, and that's what really drew me in. So I guess you could say I gave the cycle a theme [and] found it easier to make a piece that way."

Getting Started...

"The first thing I did was listen to all of the pieces but decided that it would be a little difficult for me to take something from all of them. I really had to listen to all the pieces over and over again, so I could get a sense of what the atmosphere was throughout every piece and try to make something cohesive. So I narrowed it down to specific ones--the ones that I instantly felt some kind of connection or reaction to. Aurora Awakes was the main one that has what I described earlier--that feeling of otherworldly. So I went with that because it felt right."

Letting Ideas Take Shape... 

"I didn't draw or sketch anything before hand, but I had a pretty good idea of what kind of color palette I wanted, and I knew I wanted it to be figural. So I just kind of made sketches in my head; it was all ideas at first. I also knew that it would take me some time to finish it and that things could change along the way, and if that was the case then I would just go with it. A lot of things went through my mind as well before I made the piece--what the color palate would be if I did decide to use color; if I was going to draw a person, what gender would they be; what material would be best for it, etc. Those aren't just the decisions I made for this poster--those are the decisions I have to make whenever I make an art piece." 

Revisit all of the Artist Series from this year right here. 

Posted on May 31, 2016 .