Midwest: another rant

Let me preface this by saying that I love attending the Midwest Clinic every December in Chicago. It’s a huge gathering of over 15,000 music educators spending five days attending concerts by some of the best middle school and high school bands in the country — and usually at least one unbelievable performance by a non-American band, often from Japan. Last year featured the band from Michigan State University, conducted by Kevin Sedatole, giving what, by many accounts, was probably the best concert ever heard at Midwest. The year before, Jerry Junkin conducted the Dallas Wind Symphony at Midwest. I’ve had great performances at Midwest, and I’ve consumed incredible quantities of spirits post-concert. I plan to attend every year for the foreseeable future, largely because it’s an opportunity to see friends. (You can read about last year’s Midwest Clinic in this entry.)

The other element, besides concerts (and cocktails), is the clinics themselves. This year, the American Composers Forum had the idea of presenting a very cool clinic at Midwest. The proposal was to have composers and conductors talk about the process of commissioning, working with composers, incorporating composition into the classroom — interesting stuff like that. The panel was to include Craig Kirchoff (Director of Bands at U. Minnesota, and series advisor of the Boosey and Hawkes “Windependence” series), composer Michael Colgrass (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and composer of some of the great band literature including Winds of Nagual), composer Frank Ticheli (perhaps the most performed American band composer), and me (hack). Doesn’t that sound great? Good lord — Ticheli and Colgrass on a panel together?! I would attend that even if they’d have the sense to leave me off the panel! Hundreds of people would go to that clinic. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see such a panel?

The Midwest Clinic. They nixed the clinic proposal.

So if you attend the Midwest clinic this year, and you wonder why you’re instead attending clinics like “The Euphonium is Not a Cello!,” “One, Two, Three, Four, We Declare a Rhythm War: Why Mixed-Meters are Bad for Marching,” or “Mustache Maintenance: The Cutting Edge for Today’s Band Director,” you’ll know why.

(What? Me, bitter? And don’t even get me started on their policies regarding programming restrictions…)


Alex says

It sounds like it will be fun. Hopefully I can go.

Courtnee says

Lame. I'm going to the Midwest Clinic for the first time this winter. It would have been amazing to go to the proposed clinic. Too bad. I'm pretty sure this clinic would have been the highlight of my experience at the clinic.

Cathy says

Only playing devil's advocate here - 'cause the proposed clinic would have been amazing - but ya think it got nixed because Frank Ticheli just did a clinic on the same topic, just with different band directors at this past Midwest Clinic? It was well attended, too, despite it's 8am Friday morning time. Just a thought....

Cory says

I am going to have to side with Benford regarding the choice to axe the proposed clinic - sounds very much in line with decisions I have seen in the past.

I still say nothing (no, not even "Mustache Maintenance") can top the ... interesting ... clinic Sarah, Newman, and I went to at TMEA 2 years ago: "Come Join the Oboe Band"... which, despite the extremely suggestive title, was not about a band full of oboes at all. We were quite disappointed.

Mark S. says

The Euphonium is NOT a Cello?

Are you sure about this?

Dave says

yeah man it is WAY more about the socializing now man - honestly. Besides I went to that moustache maintenance clinic two years ago and that Rolly Fingers guy is full of it....

Matt Schoendorff says

"One, Two, Three, Four, We Declare a Rhythm War: Why Mixed-Meters are Bad for Marching"

I think that was an actual clinic. I think I attended it once, for reasons I can't quite remember.

JD says

The Midwest Clinic has done a pretty bad job in selecting clinics. Most of the clinics are simple nuts and bolts "how to teach clarinet like you actually PLAY clarinet." What about something on a higher level of music making? sure there are those stand outs with great clinicians that are fantastic, but so many of the clinics pander to basic pedagogy and not much serious music making.

It is incresingly difficult to find a week's worth of stimulating clinics to attend. The first year I went, I spent most of each day in clinics. Last year I spent more time at the band directior bar than in clinics.

kristie says

you'll have to have dinner with me and my hubby next year when you come.

I have lots of friends who have moved to Austin and love it.

I hope you do too!


J. Pisano says


Great blog you have going here. I'm increasingly happy about the number of composers begining to use the blog platform to discuss music and/or their compositions.

I would have surely attended your clinic...did they tell you why it was not accepted or nothing at all.


J. Pisano -MusTech.net

Michael says

This is the first time in my teaching career that I have been disappointed with the Midwest Clinic. That would have been a tremendous session.

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