A few weeks ago, I drove to Texas A&M University — in College Station, Texas — for the annual American Bandmasters Association convention.  Although the ABA convention is, to put it lightly, a bit of a “members only” affair (and I don’t mean 80s nylon jackets), I had a few pieces on programs one evening, and I’m driving distance from there, so I headed over for the concerts.

Well, to backtrack a little, first I drove to Brenham, Texas, home of Blue Bell Creameries. It’s a small town in east Texas where my non-4-wheel-drive Prius was major novelty.  There, in a town of 13,000, was Brenham High School, a school with a nice auditorium that I’d swear could have seated more than half the town. Brenham High School was the host for the Texas Christian University Wind Symphony. The band was performing at ABA the next night, but on that Wednesday evening, the Brenham High School band hosted them for a pre-ABA tour performance. I was there because Joe Eckert, the sax teacher at TCU, was performing the final movement of my Soprano Sax Concerto on the program. The program also included a new piece called “Angels in the Architecture,” by King of Band, Frank Ticheli, seen here next to composer Christopher Tucker. (TCU was also performing a very nice piece by Chris, “Gabrieli’s Trumpet.”)

Here, Frank makes a few suggestions to the conductor, Bobby Francis.

Frank’s piece is big with some stunning visceral moments (and I’m all about visceral music). Sometimes it takes a big gesture to make a point. This one was so big, my camera had no idea what to make of it — but the band did.

After rehearsal, we had fajitas, courtesy of the Brenham High School Band. Is it just me, or does the guacamole look like lips?   But what are they saying?

The TCU performances that night and the next night at ABA were very, very good.  I thought Chris’s piece came off great, and Frank’s piece was extremely powerful.  I can’t wait to hear his piece again next week at CBDNA.

On Thursday, the UT Wind Ensemble arrived in College Station. AEJ arrived with them. Yeah, she rode the band bus from Austin. That’s right. They even gave her lunch! I was pretty jealous.
Upon arrival in College Station, one of the conducting students (but soon-to-be Director of Bands at Kennesaw State University), David Kehler, busted out his personal crotch lamps.

The way ABA works is pretty unusual — in many ways, but specifically in this case, I’m talking about the conductors. On any given program, every piece on the concert except for one is conducted by a guest conductor — either an ABA member or a new inductee into the American Bandmasters Association. The TCU performance of my concerto was conducted (extremely well) by Eric Rombach-Kendall, Director of Bands at the University of New Mexico. Some of the UT guest conductors included…
Paula Crider, retired from the University of Texas:

… Kenneth Megan, commander of the United States Coast Guard Band:

… William Moody of the University of South Carolina (who, for some inexplicable reason, reminds me in this photo of Dr. Eldon Tyrell) :

… and Tom Caneva, Director of Bands at Ball State:

The program also included Robert Carnochan (associate director of bands at UT), Robert Grechesky, and some guy named Jerry Junkin — but I unfortunately don’t have pictures of those guys.
When the players weren’t on stage, they still worked very, very hard.

Here’s a random shot of the UT percussionists. What’s going on back there?

UT provided a pre-concert dinner, which featured not only chicken fried steak, but apple cobbler. Yum!

The UT concert was great — sort of incredible, really. And their concert the next week at the Meyerson in Dallas was even better. More on that next…


Robyn says

Phenomenal conductor shots!

Mark S. says

Dr. Eckert did an amazing job with the Sax Concerto. Can't wait till I'm in the TCU Wind Symphony.

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