On Thursday, March 21, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble performed three premiere pieces at the 2013 National Conference of the College Band Directors National Association at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“We conveyed a sense of energy and passion that not every group gets,” said Andrew Mast, conductor of the ensemble. Among the five pieces that were played at the conference, two were specifically written for the Lawrence Wind Band and this particular event. Since the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) emphasizes new music, Mast had also chosen a piece by an Austrian composer that was never played before in North America. It has the mystical title “Ankou” and is junior trumpet-player Henry Gergen’s favorite piece among the rest of the repertoire. According to Gergen, “The biggest challenge during the concert was to play musically […] and to think, ‘what is the color of the piece?’”
Gergen believes that the band’s performance at the National Conference was one of the best he has experienced. The conductor of the 58-member ensemble agrees with Gergen’s statement, saying, “We got a lot of comments how much the audience got from watching us perform and sensed that there was this communication […] this respect and mutual admiration between everybody on the stage. Maybe that was the biggest success of all.”
As an undergraduate institution, it is rather unusual for Lawrence to partake in such a conference. As Mast stated, the hard work and devotion of the ensemble had paid off and earned the band a place among the other nine universities who participated this year.
The Lawrence Wind Ensemble had the chance to present their repertoire several times before the actual concert at the conference. On March 8 they played at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, March 19 at Worthington Kilbourne High School in Columbus, Ohio, and March 20 at Athens High School in Raleigh, N.C. The two performances on the way to the conference served as a “reality check,” according to Mast.
The live and echoic acoustic of the Lawrence Memorial Chapel contrasted with the auditorium in Ohio, which was acoustically dry and challenged the ears and brains of the ensemble. Pacing in a new setting was one of the most significant lessons the ensemble learned at the conference. “It is like driving on a twisty mountain road,” said Mast. “The first time you go, you are really cautious, but as you get familiar with the road, you learn where to speed up. It literally is a journey.”