UGA and Kansas City

I spent last week on the road, flying back and forth between the University of Georgia in Athens and the University of Missouri in Kansas City. UGA was performing and recording “Kingfishers Catch Fire.” UMKC was hosting a regional College Band Directors National Association where the University of Oklahoma was performing my new piece, “Clocking.”

I flew to Georgia first. To get to UGA, one flies to Atlanta and then drives 90 minutes to Athens. Along the way, you pass this. Where would Jesus buy a truck? I always ask myself that: WWJBaT. Now I know. Praisallujah!

I had flown out, not just for the recording session, but for a concert that UGA was billing as the “neXt Festival.” I was a guest for the concert, as was composer Kristin Kuster.

Kristy and I flew in on Sunday evening, and on Monday morning, we had rehearsal with the UGA Wind Ensemble, conducted by John Lynch. First, though, the grad assistants treated me to breakfast.

Rehearsal on “Kingfishers” was great. The band was also performing a premiere by Jonathan Newman, “My Hands are a City,” a piece for wind ensemble that incorporates electric guitar into the ensemble.

Most people paid attention during rehearsal, but some people played with their iPhones. How is it that every conducting grad assistant at UGA has an iPhone? Athens is too hip.

After rehearsal, John Lynch took me and Kristy out for lunch and a tour of campus. After visiting briefly with Our Lady of the Clam Shell…

… we saw the UGA mascot. The plaque reads “We Let the Dawgs Out.” Yes, they went there, which is fine — partially because the plaque is clearly dated, and partially because these words weren’t spoken by a failed presidential candidate.

The UGA campus has pretty trees.

Later that night, Lynch rehearsed our pieces once again.

It was a good time.

On Tuesday afternoon, we went out for delicious pizza — and these homemade pretzels made of pizza dough. Mmm…

The performance that night was great, and bright and early the next morning, I flew to Kansas City. Wednesday night was a fun and delicious BBQ dinner — and dessert was a huge pizza-size personal carrot cake, served hot with melted cream cheese icing.

Certainly there’s a joke that begins, “how many band directors does it take to check an email?”

The CBDNA convention in Kansas City was being hosted by UMKC, but the hotel was about 2 miles from the hall. Fortunately, we were shuttled in a big yellow school bus. It could have been awesome, except that was like a school bus going to an all boys school, which made it decidedly more lame.

On campus, Newman rehearsed with the Texas A&M Commerce band, conducted by Jeff Gershman. They were also premiering that same new piece that UGA was performing — “My Hands are a City.” Here, Newman looks a bit concerned. (He was being a little hard on himself; the piece is great.)

I mean, there’s nothing to worry about with Gershman on the podium. This guy is fantastic, as I’ve said before.

After rehearsal: lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, where I had mini-burgers. Yum.

William Wakefield did a beautiful job with my new piece, “Clocking.” (There will be a recording soon.) The band also performed Carter Pann’s “Four Factories” (wow — as Newman said after, Carter is “put your head in an oven” good) and Newman’s gorgeous piece, “As the Scent of Spring Rain.” (Newman had three pieces during the convention. Show off.)
On Saturday morning, I flew back to Atlanta. (I have to say — American Airlines does not make it easy to get between Atlanta and Kansas City. It can’t be that far, really, but when you add in the drive time to Athens, it’s a 10-hour trip.) Saturday night: dinner and drinks. Sunday morning: the recording session for “Kingfishers Catch Fire.”

Bruce Leek, the recording engineer, brings little toys — one from each school he has recorded — and sets them up on the equipment.

The session was fun — and hard. Everybody has to play everything perfectly at least once (at the same time) during a session, and this meant a huge amount of work on the part of John Lynch and his players. It also meant incredibly intense listening for hours on end.

The recording is going to be great. (I think Andy is holding his nose in this picture because of my piece, not because of the sound quality.)

The band also recorded Newman’s piece, as well as Kristy’s new piece, “Lost Gulch Lookout.”

I’m really excited about the CD. The recording engineer for the session was Bruce Leek, one of the best engineers in the business. His recordings have an immediately identifiable sound — and it’s a great sound. Bruce recorded both the Naxos recording of “Redline Tango,” as well as the Air Force Band of Mid-America’s CD of “Sasparilla” (available free on my site.) He’s an engineering bad-ass. His recordings are crystal clear with amazing dynamic and frequency range (he records a bass drum like nobody else). There are other guys who record wind band, but they pale in comparison to Leek. You want a band CD that sounds like a professional recording, rather than something recorded in a gym? Get Bruce Leek.

Thank you to John Lynch, the UGA band, and all of the grad assistants for everything you did last week. And a great big thank you to the engineering master, Bruce Leek!


Steve from Austin says

Your Bruce Leek picture = BEST... PICTURE.... EVER!!!

Montoya says

YES!! That last picture rules!!

And oh Chester... on that damn phone.

Steve says


(A different Steve from Austin)

Jake Wallace says

glad to know chester was paying attention when i was on the podium... must've been compelling. :)

Kevin Howlett says

I like to think of that "Jesus" sign read the way you say it when you've got your face buried in your hand. "Jesus..."

Cellist Caroline says

Charming to the last...

joseph ( joe ) damery says

At Long Last, i've gotten to see a photo of, bruce leek... as one listener, for many years, to, bruce's sessions, w/ several usaf bands, i've always considered him to be, " the u. s. air force' ", secret weapon.. next to my early, mercury lp's, his engineering and mastering products, are most revered in my extensive, usaf-band-program,collection, going back into the 80's... thank you very much for this opportunity to thank, a true, Master of his craft... my unusual hobby of visiting, schools and libraries, w/ "Service Band" ( all-5-branches ) info; ( begun in april ' 94 ) currently totals; 191 libraries; 273 high schools, and, 175 middle & elementary schools, all over, new-england... a true labor of Love, though- nowadays, as of, April 24 2006, w/o my lovely, wife, Mary, as my driving and dining companion... truly, music has helped me cope !!!! our children will one-day have these great releases to deal with.. thank you so very much, vty, joe damery, of; bedford, mass.

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