Reno, baby! RENO!

On Thursday, I flew to Reno, Nevada, for the Western/Northwestern Division 2008 College Band Directors National Association conference. (It’s quite a catchy title. Maybe that’s what I’ll call my middle school piece.)

I had three performances during the convention, but I only knew about two of them. My flight landed at 2:30 on Thursday, and I found out when I arrived at the conference that the Cal State Los Angeles band had performed 4 of the 5 movements of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble — at 1pm! I wish I’d known; I would have loved to have heard it.

That evening, the University of Hawaii Wind Ensemble, conducted by Grant Okamura, performed my piece, “Redline Tango” as the closer of their concert. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, as “Redline Tango” is pretty tough stuff, and this band is almost entirely non-music majors. (The band includes students majoring in everything from meteorology to — and I’m serious — welding. A euphonium player majoring in welding! At least we know there’ll be one euphonium player out there who will be able to make a living.) The band did a great job, and the performance of “Redline Tango” was both fun and exciting.

The absolute coolest thing? When Maestro Okamura brought me on stage to bow after the piece, a woman came onto the stage from the wing and put a lei around my neck! I took this picture, back in my room at the lovely Holiday Inn.

The lei was completely beautiful. I’d never seen a real one in person before. (The closest I’ve seen was at the beginning of every episode of Fantasy Island, and those always looked plastic.) This one was made of fresh flowers, and it smelled incredible. And it was heavy! I can’t begin to imagine how long it took to stitch together the thousands of flowers in this thing.

So, what’s Reno like? Is it like Vegas? Basically. I mean, here’s a hotel lobby in Vegas:

And here’s a hotel lobby in Reno:

A flower arrangement at the hotel in Reno:

And a flower arrangement at a hotel in Vegas:

A single flower in the Reno hotel:

And a single flower in the hotel in Vegas:

Food in Vegas:

And food in Reno:

Okay, on this one, I’m not going to tell. Guess which one is Vegas, and which one is Reno. Here’s one:

And here’s the other:

And here’s some artwork. Go ahead — guess!

But back to the convention. On Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of working with the University of Arizona Wind Ensemble — conducted by Gregg Hanson — and Dr. Timothy McAllister, saxophonist-extraordinaire — who were performing my Soprano Sax Concerto. Here, McAllister fingers his way, Zen-like, through some passages prior to the dress rehearsal.

Composer David Maslanka was also there, as the UA Wind Ensemble was performing his work, “Give Us This Day: Short Symphony for Wind Ensemble.” Here, Maslanka listens from the hall.

Maslanka gives a few notes to the ensemble, as conductor Gregg Hanson listens.

And we’re about to go…

Rehearsal was fun. Here, the double bass player prepares to take the big scat solo. (I’m kidding; the microphone was for something else.)

And here is McAllister’s sax section, among the best sax studios I’ve ever heard. (He somehow taught every one of them to effectively slap-tongue for my piece — something that can take years to learn. He got them to do it in a week.)

The concert was incredible. I heard Tim and the band perform the piece in February, and it was good then (I recently posted “Felt,” the second movement of the concerto, from that performance), but this was spectacular — the best I’ve ever heard the piece, start to finish. I heard comments afterwards like, “I have never heard a sax player with that kind of dynamic control throughout the range,” “that is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard from a soprano sax,” and simply, “Tim McAllister is the best classical saxophonist working today.” I don’t doubt it.

It was a fun two days in Reno. My thanks to Tim McAllister, Gregg Hanson, and Grant Okamura for some fantastic performances, and thanks to Mack McGrannahan, the conference host at U. Nevada – Reno.


Montoya says

Oh Reno... you're like James Horner to Las Vegas' John Williams...

Cathy says

OMG, I needed that. A laugh does a body good. :)

Travis Taylor says

I can't tell a difference. That sausage pattie however looks absolutely delicious...

I hate sausage patties. Especially floppy ones.


Travis K. says

I am one of the trombonists of the University of Hawaii that performed "Redline Tango" and I have to say it was such a shocker and complete surprise that you were there to hear your work being performed. I spoke with a lot of my friends in the band and I agree with them that if we knew you were coming, we would have been quite scared. I'm glad we didn't know. What a surprise! Hope you liked the low E's in the trombone part (hah)! Anyway, thank you very much for coming. It was awesome. Hope you enjoyed yourself too, and apparently the lei.


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