Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band joined by Samuel Adler

Amelia Perron

Two Lawrence ensembles had the rare opportunity Nov. 19 of working with internationally recognized composer Samuel Adler in a concert featuring his music.
Adler, who has composed some 500 pieces and whose teaching history includes the prestigious Eastman and Juilliard schools of music, spent Nov. 15-19 in residency at the Lawrence Conservatory. His residency, which included lectures, a composition master class, individual composition lessons, a presentation to a conducting class, and a new music concert, culminated Nov. 19 with a Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble concert, conducted by Adler and Lawrence director of bands Andrew Mast.
Both ensembles primarily played works by Adler, who conducted one piece with each group. The experience of playing a piece under the baton of its composer was a unique one for the students. Said sophomore bassoonist Emma Ashbrook, “It was cool to look at the piece through the composer’s perspective. You could see in his conducting what was going on in his mind.”
Adler’s contribution to the concert went beyond simply the performance. “Adler has crossed paths with virtually every major figure in the music world,” said Mast. “I think the most valuable experience for the students was simply to listen to his stories and ‘breathe his air.'”
The program was compiled with suggestions from Adler. “We ended up with quite a diversity of pieces,” Mast said. “Some had been written 40 years ago, some were just off the press. It enabled us to see how Adler’s writing had changed over the years.” For even more insight, the Symphonic Band played pieces by Aaron Copland and Walter Piston – both former teachers of Adler.
By all accounts, the resulting program was a challenging one. Junior horn player Megan Fehr said that “‘Pygmalion’ [the last piece on the program] was so difficult. It took a lot of work to get it where it was for the concert.” But that particular piece was a high point for Mast. “It was so difficult, but they played it really well,” he said. Adler’s insight helped the ensemble through the technical challenges. According to Mast, “In the first rehearsal, Adler told them, ‘Who cares about the notes? It’s all about the music and the energy.’