The band premieres piece at the Western International Band Clinic
The FPU Concert Band performed at their Send-off concert in the middle of November, before they officially departed to Seattle for the Western International Band Clinic. Our symphonic band was among just four bands invited to perform, and was the only one from California.
The conference takes place throughout the Western seaboards of Canada and the U.S., and is mostly made up of music teachers of many academic levels and college students who are involved in music.
“It’s been something that we have been working towards for the last five years since we started this band program,” Erik Leung, Band Director, said.
When the band program first started less than 30 students were involved, a few of which were first-time players barely learning their instruments. The program didn’t even have its own designated rehearsal space on campus.
“A lot of it in the beginning was just teaching people how to play,” Leung said.
Over the course of five years, the program underwent intense rehearsal and practice, making it to music festivals in Chicago and achieving other worthy accomplishments along the way.
“There was no band program before me,” Dakota Botton said. “If you would’ve asked us when this band first started if we’d be able to be here, we would have laughed in your face.”
For newer students, the progression made over the past few years has been impressive. “When I heard that they had a band I was surprised, because this is such a small school… It is amazing how much it has grown,” Jasmine Mozqueda said.
Everyone involved was grateful to be given the opportunity to attend the Seattle conference, and they hope that it will both put FPU on the map and give the students a route to more opportunities in the field of music.
“In music, it’s kind of about who you know that gets you a job. Being able to put stuff like this on my resume, I know I get a boost,” Rachel Garbutt said.
In terms of their set, a junior high piece was included for junior high level audiences. “Rhapsody in Blue” was also performed featuring Walter Saul on the piano. The band was also able to premiere “Ash” by Jennifer Jolley, which has never been played before.
“It has really been a journey to be the first interpretation of this music,” Leung said.
“Ash” was inspired by Fresno, and its reputation as the ash grove. When Jolley was a young girl growing up in southern California, she saw a forest fire approaching her house. In the piece, she recollects the sight of ash falling from the sky, claiming she wanted to musically capture that magical, yet frightening, memory.
While the Western International Band Clinic has proven to be a big gig for the symphonic band, they still have kept their eyes on what’s next; they have hinted at a possible “concert on the Green” next semester, which would feature performances of popular film scores and maybe even tracks from video games.
“We are such a great team,” Leung said. “We’ve always had really great students throughout the years, who have believed in what we’re doing. Through sheer force of will from all of us, we have been able to make things happen.” The conference invitation hasn’t just provided opportunity, but it has boosted their drive.
***Correction Note: In the print version of this article “Rhapsody in Blue” was incorrectly referred to as a junior high piece during the copy editing process.