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Beginning Band Symposium
Sept. 28, 2013
Jazz Symposium
Oct. 19, 2013

University of Western Ontario
Creative Performance Symposium

Saturday, October 22rd, 2011
Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
9:30AM - 4:30PM

Michael Colgrass

Featured Clinician:
Michael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass graduated from the University of Illinois in 1954 in percussion performance, and studied composition with Darius Milhaud, Lukas Foss and Ben Weber. He freelanced in New York City with the New York Philharmonic, Dizzy Gillespie, West Side Story orchestra on Broadway and the Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series at Columbia Records, among many others.

Commissions include the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony (twice) and orchestras of Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, St.Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto (twice), the National Arts Centre Orchestra (twice), and numerous chamber and choral groups and soloists.

His awards are the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Music, an Emmy Award (1982), two Guggenheim Fellowships, grants from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, First Prize in the Barlow and Sudler International Wind Ensemble Competitions, and the 1988 Jules Leger Prize for Chamber Music.

Recent works are Side by Side (2007) for harpsichord and altered piano commissioned by the Esprit Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, and Zululand (2010) for wind ensemble, commissioned and premiered by the University of Wisconsin at River Falls.

He gives workshops in performance for professionals and creativity for children. His method of teaching graphic notation to children has been adopted into the junior high curriculum for Nova Scotia. Colgrass wrote "My Lessons With Kumi", a narrative/exercise book for performers, and "Adventures of an American Composer", an autobiography of anecdotes.

He lives in Toronto and makes his living internationally as a composer. For more information see: www.michaelcolgrass.com.

Featured Clinician: Michael Colgrass

UWO Wind Ensemble Concert: "Cultural Connections"
With guest composer Michael Colgrass
Friday, October 21st at 8:00pm
Paul Davenport Theatre, Talbot College
Free Admission

Download the UWO & OBA Creative Performance Symposium Brochure

Directions to University of Western Ontario

Who Should Attend?

This workshop is open to all music educators and university students interested in improving their skills as effective music leaders. If you currently feel uncomfortable teaching composition, or you need more creative teaching strategies, then this is the perfect clinic for you. Through modelling, student demonstrations, and open forum discussions, Michael Colgrass will take the fear out of creativity!

Symposium Topic:

"The Key to Creativity: Think Like a Kid"

This symposium will provide you with a tried and proven method of teaching your band how to create, perform and conduct original music. You will witness this process in action as composer Michael Colgrass guides music students from H.B. Beal Secondary School in the writing of a piece of music using a simple form of graphic notation. Using graphics, students don't need to be experienced in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, because they are creating their own notation and in effect re-inventing the compositional process. Because the method is goof-proof, students and teachers gain confidence.

This method has been adopted by the Nova Scotia Junior High school music curriculum, and creating original music has become an annual event with the Middleton Regional High School band in Middleton Nova Scotia, under band director Richard Bennett, where every year several students from the band create new works and conduct them with the band as part of the band's public band concert. Principals of composing for band such as creating and developing a theme and orchestrating for wind and percussion instruments will be explored while you watch.

Contact cricha33@uwo.ca for more information.

Yamaha Canada Music
Belle Air Music

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2010 UWO/OBA Wind Conductors' Sumposium
Clinician: Dr. Michael Votta

The OBA and University of Western Ontario once again provided Ontario teachers with a fantastic opportunity to further develop their conducting skills on a fresh, crisp, autumnal Saturday. Dr. Michael Votta, from the University of Maryland, was engaging and entertaining throughout his two morning lectures and then through the conducting master class workshop in the afternoon.

Dr. Votta's background in science (he holds an undergraduate degree in science, in addition to his musical pedigree) provided an interesting perspective into why we, as conductors, suffer through some of our problems, but he also provided great medicine for our various maladies. In the first lecture titled "I Know It's Wrong, But I'm Not Sure How to Fix It", Dr. Votta highlighted a conductor's high-level aural skills as the premium asset that is brought to the podium. He cited educator Marianne Ploger's Three Main Causes of Error and the correlating solution to each problem. For example, conductors can sometimes react to a wrong note and mentally freeze. To avoid this problem, Ploger suggests mentally "zooming out", as if to have "eagle-vision".

Dr. Votta went on to differentiate between instructor and conductor ears, prototypes and categories, mental images and brain states. If you enjoyed reading Daniel Levitin's book This is Your Brain on Music, you would have loved the lecture as the talk weaved through psychological cognition theories and neurological patterns.

In the second session Dr. Votta pivoted away from the conductor's role as performer, and addressed the conductor's role as educator. Building upon the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, he extrapolated those principles into a conductor's leadership role as an educator (for skill improvement) but also as a team leader, nurturing the group's attitude and the general atmosphere of the band rehearsals. Likening the lecture to chapters from a Tim Lautzenheiser book, the talk was motivating and inspirational, reminding many of us to see the bodies before us as people, before musicians, while validating our current practices. For all the focus on our specific skill set of waving arms we usually receive, this lecture was an excellent review of the holistic approach that we as conductor-educators must take on to ensure that we continue to have a thriving (and happy) ensemble seated before us.

Finally, of course, there was the conducting clinic workshop where volunteers got up to conduct for about ten minutes each. Attendees were welcome to join in with the UWO Wind Ensemble, with over-crowded sections rotating on and off like a high school volleyball team. "RO-TATION!" Dr. Votta was kind and merciful with his fantastic constructive feedback. Amongst other feedback, conductors were asked to "trust (his) instincts" and let the music flow more (BIGGER GESTURES!), rather than trying to perfect a beautiful baton pattern. All volunteers were given a DVD recording at the end of the session so we could all go home and eagerly watch ourselves conduct, in the way that we are eager to hear our own voices recorded...

In summation, if you missed it, you missed a great workshop. Be sure to catch the next OBA Wind Conductors' Symposium at York University in Toronto in March, and make the trip out to London for next year's OBA/UWO Wind Conducting Symposium.

Mark Tse
Aurora High School

2009 UWO/OBA Wind Conductors' Sumposium
Clinician: Dr. Mallory Thompson

"Exhilarating, imaginative, and informative with a touch of humour is only a touch of what one experienced in the conducting workshop with Dr. Mallory Thompson. Through constructive criticism with a touch of warmth, Dr. Thompson gave some very specific and practical suggestions for the mechanics of conducting. However, the real gift she gave was the keys to communicating your interpretation and study of a band score."

Donna Shen
Village Voices, Program and Group Events Co-ordinator


Symposium clinician, Dr. Mallory Thompson.
Dr. Thompson working with symposium participants.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Dennis Beck

Dr. Thompson working with symposium participants.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Bryan Conrad

2008 UWO/OBA Wind Conductors' Sumposium
Clinician: Dr. Gary Hill

Dr. Gary Hill (Arizona State University) gave us information needed to better understand how musicians get information from conductors and how conductors can defeat themselves with common habits and traditions. He also demonstrated tools and tactics necessary to be more effective on the podium while giving us guidance towards developing our own tools and tactics. He was relaxed and focused during the practical sessions in the afternoon. He was honestly positive about good things while quickly getting to work with participants to solve any problems that he perceived in our conducting.

My podium time at the UWO/OBA Wind Conductor's Symposium involved some embarrassment and a great deal of frustrated internal dialogue. Through the process there was, however, a final realization that I had experienced transformational learning.

Now, after a few days back at work the depth of the transformation is truly starting to sink in. Things are starting to happen in my Grade 9 class that have never happened in a Grade 9 class this naturally. They are playing with so much more musicality and expression. They are also so much more flexible in adding dynamics and small tempo changes that are musical but not necessarily written. They are finding balance, can recognize important melodies or troubleshoot why certain sections of a piece don't sound great.

I think I am beginning to learn how to get out of the way of their music-making while learning how and when to insert myself most effectively. They don't even need a beat all the time. I can't wait for band rehearsal tomorrow to not conduct so many beats, and perhaps help the kids find the music more effectively and efficiently.

Wayne Nickoli
College Avenue Secondary Music, Woodstock


Dr. Gary Hill, Arizona State University, Symposium Clinician

Dr. Hill and Dave Lum, OBA Past-President

Dr. Colleen Richardson, Don Wright Faculty of Music, UWO, and Dr. Hill

Symposium participants get physical.

Photos courtesy and copyright of Dennis Beck

The conducting symposium hosted by the OBA and the University of Western Ontario on October 18th, 2008 was a great experience. This year's clinician was Dr. Gary Hill, Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Arizona State University. Being a student at Western, I was already in London on Friday night and had the chance to watch Dr. Hill conduct Holst's Hammersmith with the UWO Wind Ensemble. It was a wonderful experience to see him conduct. He made it seem quite easy to stand in front of an ensemble with which he had only rehearsed once and be as relaxed and welcoming as he was. After this experience I wanted to learn more from him.

In the morning session Hill intrigued his audience with many facts about the brain and how the two hemispheres of the brain interact. Who knew that it takes about 10 years of conducting for the brain to really have made this a skill which we can perform automatically?! This reinforced the importance of proper conducting skills at a beginning stage for me, as the bad habits we form in these 10 years of practice will then feel natural as well. Another interesting characteristic of the brain that Hill taught us was the fact that we should actively use both hemispheres of our brain when conducting. Whereas "the left hemisphere processes serial events, the right hemisphere creates a master collage of the moment in time, including sensations, thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses." Therefore, when observing an ensemble, we should actively listen using our right hemisphere in order to notice and internalize the sound. This side of our brain will tell us when something "feels" wrong and we can then use the left hemisphere to figure out what was going on in the particular moment.

One last thing about the brain that struck me is the fact that everything we do is copied by the people in front of us. This is done unconsciously, by the mirror neurons, but in this way, everything we do is replicated many times. Facial expressions are also copied, which is one of the main ways in which we convey our emotions to others. Other people copy our emotions and feel them internally before they explicitly recognize them. This means that we cannot hide our feelings, since the people around us copy them and in turn feel similar to the way we feel. If we do not like a piece we are conducting, it is difficult to hide this fact from the ensemble and we would be better off to choose a different piece of music.

In the afternoon session there were ten different conductors, with a variety of experience levels and were there to improve different aspects of their conducting. Along with giving every conductor new ideas and areas of improvement, Dr. Hill also made sure that the audience got to take something away from the afternoon. We learned that there are certain times when shifting balance from one leg to another can reinforce a gesture we are using. For example, a crescendo shown with the left hand will be reinforced if we shift our weight to the left leg and lean into it a little bit. The importance of relaxation was also emphasized. If we relax, then is it easier for members in the ensemble to be relaxed as well. Tension in any part of our body will cause us harm, but it will also be copied by the members of the ensemble (by the mirror neurons) and will therefore harm the quality of the sound we hear. We also learned that it is important to show facial expressions while we are conducting. Sharing what the piece we are conducting means to us is a great way to start this process. Being able to show this on our face while we are conducting reinforces the mood of the piece and often sends the members of the ensemble more information than we could ever convey with our hands. One last thing that Dr. Hill mentioned, and what really made me think, was the fact that we need to learn to trust our ensembles more. Once a section has shown us that they can play a difficult passage, we need to remember that we can now move on and focus on other things. Too often we keep subdividing, or focusing on background patterns because we think that the players will not be successful without our help. Once we realize that they are just fine, we can move on to other things - for example, concentrating on the melodic line, phrasing, or other stylistic ideas. Once we have established this trust, we realize that we can improve the overall sound of our ensemble, as opposed to worrying about a single section.

Overall, I really enjoyed learning new conducting strategies, but I often felt a little overwhelmed by all of the new information. Dr. Hill had an answer - he told us to add two new skills for every piece that we conduct. If we keep using these skills we will soon have a vast new set of skills to choose from. I am glad that I had the chance to attend this conducting symposium and hope that this tradition can be kept up, to inspire students like myself, and show them that there are many people around them who are on the same path.

Rebekka Moeller,
UWO Music Student

2007 UWO/OBA Wind Conductors' Sumposium
Clinician: Dr. Donald Hunsberger

The recent Wind Conductor's Symposium hosted by the Ontario Band Association and the University of Western Ontario proved to be a tremendously valuable experience for participants. While watching Dr. Donald Hunsberger conduct the UWO Wind Ensemble undoubtedly inspired several current and aspiring music educators in regard to improving their own conducting technique, I found both his advice and character to be the most motivating aspects of the weekend. Through his humble attitude, and his willingness to share stories of the early experiences that shaped his own decorated career, Dr. Hunsberger appealed to his audience not as a legendary conductor and arranger, but as a down-to-earth gentleman who, like everyone else in attendance, was interested in creating and teaching music. In this way, he demonstrated that hard work on the fundamentals, willingness to accept advice and criticism, and the ability of each individual to develop a unique and musical conducting style are the keys to success. Conducting for the esteemed professor in a masterclass setting was a daunting, but unforgettable experience. The questions that Dr. Hunsberger asked of the participants reflected those that successful conductors will ask of themselves in order to improve: What is the reasoning behind each gesture and instruction? Why did you choose that particular piece? Where would it be programmed? The Symposium certainly provided participants with many ideas to consider for their own improvement.

In addition to the knowledge that I took away from the Symposium, I felt a great deal of pride to be a part of Western's Don Wright Faculty of Music. The inaugural event was very well attended, and excellently organized, largely due to the work of many student volunteers. In addition, the success of the Symposium seems to represent an arrival point in the ongoing transformation of the faculty's band program. During the four years I have attended UWO, the quality of performances by both the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band have improved dramatically, as has the ability of these ensembles to support community and school system music programs through performances and clinics outside of the usual concert series. The dedication, high quality of teaching and consistency of leadership provided by our excellent band directors, Dr. Colleen Richardson and Professor Gary McCumber, have guided the Western wind bands toward their potential for excellence. Hopefully, educators and conductors will return to enjoy all that Western and the Ontario Band Association have to offer next year, and for many years thereafter.

Steven Richards, 4th year student, UWO Music Education Honours


Dr. Hunsberger

Dr. Hunsberger & Symposium attendee

Colleen Richardson (UWO),
Dr. Hunsberger, Mark Caswell (OBA)