I’ve been remiss. Last year was a tough year.

But – I have been composing and doing academic things, as well as playing. I am trying to make updates to this website as well. So let’s recap:

January 2019 – premiere of Woody Creek Breakdown in Brookings, SD by someone who has been kind enough to commission two or three pieces from me (and who is an absolute joy to work with), Tammy Evans Yonce

February 2019 – premiere (in piano reduction) of Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra here at UMM (Mike Odello on tuba, Angela Nybakke on piano); I also played on this recital, doing euphonium works by Libby Larsen and others

March 2019 – gave a talk on Morton Gould at CMS Great Plains in Cedar Rapids, IA; also, Fujin performed Urban Legends VIII: Chupacabra in Cullowhee, North Carolina

April 2019 – Rational Exuberance performed by the Fort Dodge Symphony under the direction of Joshua Barlage

May 2019 – Second-ever performance of Bedtime Story by NANOWorks in Atlanta, GA

June 2019 – Lisa Neher performed Urban Legends V: Helen in Portland, OR

What does the future hold? I’m presenting twice at the CMS National Conference in Louisville, KY in October. The orchestral version of the Concerto for Tuba will be premiered on May 17, 2020 in Alexandria, MN by the Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Brad Lambrecht) with Mike Odello once again on the big horn. And speaking of the CLSO – I am honored to be principal trombone with the group this year. I have not played in a concert orchestra since high school; 29 years is a long enough stretch.

I have a few other projects, too – Misty Theisen and the Asheville Modern Big Band commissioned Triple Double, a concerto-of-sorts for woodwind doubler and big band, and I just sent that off to the performers last week. Can’t wait to hear it! I am also working on getting one last Morton Gould paper off to a journal (if anyone has journal recommendations, I’m listening) and then I have a larger project on the idea of engaged music theory (based on folks like Cheng, Amrein, hooks, etc.).

Personally…I’m exercising again, which is nice. Not much, but every little bit counts, and I’m consistent about it – six days a week, without fail. I’m practicing again too. Being a performer makes me a better composer, theorist, and teacher.

It’s good to be back. I’ll try to do this more often.

WF

A couple of weeks ago, I went down to Iowa City for the International Trombone Festival. Picked up a new mouthpiece. Here I am getting used to it.

Maybe I’ll put more of these up every now and then.

Also, I can’t recommend Giddings Mouthpieces enough. This is the EXL model, stainless steel with a frost finish. I play on a Conn 88H (Elkhart).

WF

(Yes, that is a boring title.)

I’ve been Tweetstorming quite a lot lately, and someone said, “Don’t you have a blog?” This reminded me that, yes, I do have a blog and should probably start using it more. (There was a time when I wrote a blog post every day.)

Some background:

I love this gig. It’s a great gig with great colleagues, great students, and administrators who more often than not get it. But it is not without challenges. First and foremost is geography. We are 90 – 100 miles from anyplace with more than, say, 25,000 people, and three hours from the Twin Cities. In many fields, that wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference, but since music is so specialized (you wouldn’t want me teaching, say, flute), the six full-time faculty cannot hope to cover all the possible areas of instruction. We rely more on adjuncts than I would like, but we do provide mileage for those coming from more than 10 miles away, and we do also put people up in hotels as necessary.

The problem with this is that it is unsustainable. Not financially, necessarily (though it may be that), but just in terms of building a traditional music program. I wouldn’t want to drive three hours each way every week for no more than four students, but we cannot in good conscience give a student less than the best possible instruction. We have tried some online lessons (through a partnership with MacPhail Center for Music) and that has worked to some extent, but to do that well we would need a large increase in our capital budget to update some rooms with a full spectrum of equipment for those purposes (cameras, microphones, necessary connections). This will be an ongoing challenge.

The other issue we face is somewhat tied to the first issue. Our curriculum is pretty much the Standard Undergraduate Music Curriculum (four semesters of theory, two semesters of history, lessons, a jury, a senior project, and some electives). It is designed to prepare students for graduate study, a teaching career, or a performance career.

But most of our students don’t do that.

We’re a liberal arts college on the prairie. Even though we have a high percentage of first-generation students, who are usually geared more toward music education as a career, most of our students don’t take that path. We have a couple of students who are carving out performance careers, but they are the exception. Same for graduate school. Our students usually end up working outside of music, using the ancillary skills they develop in the program and continuing in music on an amateur or semi-professional basis while paying the bills in some other way. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are days I’d do that. But it doesn’t make sense for our curriculum to reflect an approach that is simply not in line with what our graduates do. Thus, we are making some changes to the curriculum.

They haven’t all been ironed out yet, but when they are, I shall post them for your feedback. Like David Letterman in his Late Night years, the stuff may or may not work, but we’re going to try it anyway. If it doesn’t work, well, it wouldn’t be too difficult to return to the traditional model. But if it does work, we could change the face of music education in a liberal arts context.

Of course, this new curriculum would not likely earn the imprimatur of NASM, but we’re not accredited by them anyway, and many of the top music programs are pulling out. I have nothing against NASM; I worked with them at the last gig, and I think they do what they do very well and they should continue to do it. I just don’t necessarily agree that what they do overlaps much with what we do.

More bulletins as events warrant.

WF

What: Selections from River Songs (2009) for soprano or mezzo-soprano and piano at a concert celebrating composers who grew up in rural areas
When: Saturday, June 7, 2014, 7:00pm EDT
Where: Lincoln Junior High School Auditorium, Plymouth, IN

I shall be there with many family members. If you’re in the area, come by!

WF