WMU News

Top high school musicians coming to WMU for conference

March 28, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University' School of Music presents the 36th annual Spring Conference on Wind and Percussion Music, with free performances in Miller Auditorium Thursday, April 1.

The spring conference is a day-long event intended to "promote the performance, understanding, and composition of quality wind and percussion music." The event is free and is open to music educators, high school and college students, parents and all people interested in band music.

Each year the festival focuses on a guest composer/conductor whose works are featured during the conference. This year's featured artist is composer Eric Whitacre. (See below for more about the featured guest artist.)

The day's activities include concerts by two guest high school bands and a performance by the Eric Whitacre All-Star Band, which will be conducted by the composer. This year's guest bands are the Lapeer East High School Symphony Band conducted by Joseph Dobos, and the Dexter High School Symphonic Band conducted by Gerald A. Woolfolk. Lapeer will perform at 1 p.m. and Dexter at 2:45 p.m., both in Miller Auditorium.

The conference will conclude with an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. in Miller Auditorium. The concert will feature performances by the Western Michigan University Symphonic Band, conducted by Robert L. Spradling, and the 120-member Eric Whitacre All-Star Band. Students from more than 60 Michigan high schools have been nominated by their band directors for the honor of performing in All-Star Band. More than 90 percent of this ensemble's membership will be awarded to musicians who hold first-chair-player positions in their own high school bands.

Eric Whitacre

Guest composer/conductor Eric Whitacre is one of today's bright stars in contemporary concert music. Regularly commissioned and published, he has received composition awards from ASCAP, the Barlow International Composition Competition, the American Choral Directors Association, the American Composers Forum, and in the spring of 1999 was honored with his first Grammy nomination (contemporary classical crossover). In 2001, he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association. Commercially, he has worked with such luminaries as Barbra Streisand and Marvin Hamlisch.

Born in 1970, Whitacre has already achieved substantial critical and popular acclaim. The American Record Guide named his first recording, "The Music of Eric Whitacre," one of the top ten classical albums in 1997, and the Los Angeles Times praised his music as "electric, chilling harmonies; works of unearthly beauty and imagination." His Water Night has become one of the most popular choral works of the last decade, and is one of the top selling choral publications in the last five years. Ghost Train, his first instrumental work written at the age of 23, is a genuine phenomenon; it has received thousands of performances in over 50 countries and has been featured on 40 different recordings. His music has been the subject of several recent scholarly works and doctoral dissertations, and his 28 published works have sold well over 100,000 copies worldwide.

As a conductor, Mr. Whitacre has served as principal conductor of the College Light Opera Company; as chorus master for the Nevada Symphony Orchestra; and, he has appeared as guest conductor with numerous professional and educational ensembles, including the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Gregg Smith Singers, and the Kansas City Chorale. In the fall of 2001, he conducted the first in an annual series of wind symphony concerts in Tokyo, Japan, where he has been named guest music director of the Tokyo Wind Symphony, and in the summer of 2002 he conducted and lectured extensively throughout Singapore. Whitacre received his Master of Music degree in composition from the Juilliard School, where he studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winner John Corigliano.

Media contact: Kevin West, 269 387-4678, kevin.west@wmich.edu

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