The Indiana Music Education Association Professional Development Conference in Ft. Wayne had a distinct Northern Illinois feel this past weekend.
Not only was Reggie Thomas, professor and head of jazz studies at NIU, invited to lead the Indiana All-State Jazz Band, but the NIU Wind Ensemble performed twice, a rare honor for an ensemble out of the league. ‘State.
Under the direction of Thomas Bough, conductor of Wind Symphony and director of athletic bands at NIU, the Wind Ensemble performed a featured concert at 3:30 p.m. that includes a guest solo by Christopher Scanlon, assistant professor of trumpet at NIU. And a concert at 11 o’clock called “Music By Black Composers”.
“NIU as a whole and the School of Music in particular are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Bough said. “One of the things that I’m really proud of is that for the past two years, every gig by every band has included music by a black songwriter and a female songwriter and, in some cases, more than a track. I’m really proud of what we’re doing. We’re becoming a leader in that. Over the fall semester we performed all of that music and now we’re dedicating an entire concert to that work.
The Music By Black Composers concert included music written by composers like William Owen, Tania Leon, Anthony Barfield, Dwayne Milburn, Quincy Hilliard and Quinn Mason.
During the afternoon performance, the Wind Ensemble performed a number of pieces, including Reverie on Mahler written by Bough and featuring Scanlon’s trumpet solo.
“It was a pleasure to perform as a soloist with the Wind Ensemble and Dr Bough conducting his ‘Trumpet Concerto’. Reflections on Mahler, Scanlon said.“ By the end of this semester we will have performed four times, at a Wind Ensemble concert in Boutell last fall, at the Indiana Music Educators Conference in January, at the Batavia Fine Arts Festival and at the NIU Concert Band Festivals in February.
“It’s a wonderful piece that takes the beautiful melodies of Mahler’s lieder and gives them to the solo trumpet voice. As a centerpiece, it’s not without some flashy technical bits, but the piece overwhelmingly uses my favorite thing to do as a musician, sing on the trumpet. It is also unique in that each of its three movements is performed on a different “auxiliary” trumpet. Like most trumpeters, the main instrument I play and practice with is the Bb trumpet. Dr. Bough forgoes the common B-flat trumpet and has written a movement for cornet, flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet. Navigating these three very different instruments in one solo piece is a fun challenge. It is exciting to share this piece with so many other musicians and educators and I hope they will also consider programming it.
Music by black composers was directed by Bough and graduate assistants Annie Sun Chung, Dan’ica Richardson, and Bryan A. Flippin. The featured concert was conducted by Bough and Chung.
Bough has presented at the Indiana conference before and has taken a chance that the high quality work of the Wind Ensemble is worth considering to play there. “They said we were welcome to apply but they hardly ever come out of public sets,” he said. “We submitted audio recordings and videos of rehearsals and programs, and they must have liked what they heard and saw. I was pleasantly surprised to receive not one, but two invitations to perform. To the best of my knowledge, an NIU set has not appeared at a state convention in over a decade. We’re really excited to take our music beyond state lines. It is especially fitting now that NIU no longer charges out-of-state tuition.