Wilmington Symphonic Winds performs its first concert of the season today at 4:30 at Odell Williamson Auditorium. This concert, called Tour de Force, features music by Sousa, Bernstein, Kalinnikov, and more, performed by 65 regional musicians.
This is a free concert-but the Winds are happy to accept donations toward the commissioning project underway with composer Mark Camphouse. Listen above to flutist and Board President Deborah Phillips; see our extended conversation below.
Deborah: This is our fourth season and it's my third season playing with the group- I joined year two. And I enjoyed playing in the first year and then by the end of that year I was elected president of the Wilmington Symphonic Winds Board of Directors. So now, what comes first for me is playing my flute and then second, of course, is the administration of the program. So I have kind of a dual role right now and that's good.
Gina: Have you been directing the New Horizons Band?
Deborah: No, I've filled in a few times when Dr. LaCognata had to be out. And my husband plays trombone with NH and that's how you met us originally. And so I'm just a very big fan of that because, to me, it's another place for adults to play. You know, you play in a band in your junior high, high school and college days and then when you graduate, a lot of people never play again. So that's one of the really magnificent things that we have in this community. We have the New Horizons band and we also have Wilmington's Symphonic Winds, which gives adults who love playing music an avenue to keep playing music.
Gina: It's good to have a band where you don't have to audition. Where you can be at any point. But that's an interview for later, about that band. You do have a tough audition to be part of the Wilmington Symphonic Winds. The Wilmington Symphonic Winds-these are elite instrumentalists. Fantastic instrumentalists in town. And how did you decide to join the group two years ago?
Deborah: Well, Tom Smicklas and my son in law, Robert Parker, asked me to audition and at the time I was still teaching, and I didn't think I had time to do it, but then they just kept encouraging me and so then I joined the group and then I realized what a great opportunity it's been for me and also for a lot of other people to be able to still play at a high level. So it's really been fun and I enjoy the people that I play with. We have great people in the group of all walks of life. Some are teachers, some are retired teachers, some are business people. We have some younger people, some older people. I mean, we just have a real mix of all kinds of people in there.
Gina: And they're from kind of all over.
Deborah: Right. We have some musicians that come from South Carolina and we have some from Brunswick County and some from Onslow County, some from Fayetteville, of course some from Wilmington. There are about 65 people in the group right now.
Gina: The music is not easy.
Deborah: No. Not always. Most of the time it's challenging and I think that's what makes it fun is it gives us something to work towards. And you know, that it's not too easy for us. It does give us a reason to practice and a reason to play.
I think people sometimes are not aware of what bands play because they may associate a band with what they've heard maybe when they took their children to band practice or on the marching band field or whatever. So it is an advanced music form. The people that are playing in the group, or any wind band of that level, they have to be at a certain level of proficiency to be able to play. And since we only have five rehearsals to get ready for a concert, we have to put it together rather quickly.
Gina: This concert, Tour de Force, is going to be at Odell Williamson.
Deborah: We are we are glad to be at Odell Williamson Auditorium for a lot of different reasons. One is it's a fundraising concert for our commission piece. So that admission is, there's no charge for the admission. It's free of charge. We're hoping that people might see fit to give us a donation to help towards the commissioning project for Mark Camphouse's commission that will come out in 2018. So we're actively fundraising right now. And we also want to grow our audience and be able to have people from South Carolina and Brunswick County meet us and come hear us and maybe they'll be part of our audience in the future too, even if we're not at Odell Williamson.
Gina: And now I see that one of the pieces you will be playing at the concert is by Mark Camphouse called Yosemite Autumn.
Deborah: That's correct.
Gina: The new band director at UNCW, Dominic Talanka, will be conducting that piece, which is one of the pieces that he actually prepared as he was working on his doctoral studies at Northwestern University.
Deborah: And since we're going to be commissioning a piece by Mark Camphouse, we thought that we would lead into it so probably each concert from here through the end of this season will have a Mark Camphouse piece on it. That gives us a chance to learn his style also, to be able to play his music, because some of us are older and haven't played his music. Some have played his music before but it gives all of us a chance to learn his style and play his music and feature it.
Gina: Well, how would you describe his style?
Deborah: Well, this piece that we're doing on this concert is the first piece that I've ever played of his. So I don't really know his complete style. It's more lyrical than what we're playing the rest of the concert. It'll probably evoke more emotions, I think is very contemporary sounding.
Deborah: We'll also probably we're working on, Mr. Talanka is now working on our themes for next the next two concerts and so there'll be another Camphouse piece in February and probably one in May also.
Gina: Let me ask you, if you could describe for our listeners- what does it mean when a band is doing a commission with a composer?
Deborah: Well it’s a very exciting project and I've been part of that as a band writer before so this, to me, is really exciting to be able to be in the administration part of it. But what happens is that a band would solicit a composer of their choice to see if they would write a piece for them. And if they do then there is a process of about probably two years- sometimes it's shorter sometimes it's longer, it just depends on the composer and what his schedule is like- and so, when you solicit a composer, they first of all want to know whether they want to do it for you. And so I'm sure that he has probably listened to our group and decided whether we could perform the music that he would want to write. And then the trick is to convince the composer to do it, to get the contract written, to fund it, and then we'll be premiering it next November- a year- and we hope to perform at the NCMEA inservice conference in Winston-Salem in November. So, I've always been on it from the end of being the band director and we've commissioned people to do it and solicit funds from other. Either we had extra funds in our budget or we solicited funds from other programs. So this is a little bit different than that.
Gina: You're raising the money now.
Deborah: Yes, we're in the process of raising the money now. We have also gotten a very generous donation from the Landfall Foundation to go towards that. So we're very excited about that because that reduces the amount that we actually have to raise from individuals or corporations. And we're very excited about that. This is our second year receiving a grant from the Landfall Foundation. We also this year received a grant from the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, which will help with our outreach. And if we can increase our outreach then we're going to increase our audience attendance and then hopefully that will all go towards that.
Gina: You all have only been around for four years. That's really young. And I feel like the growth has been very rapid and the group has been really successful, even though it may feel like there's still so much to do and there is, but a part of it is just time, you know. But I mean, just is sticking around for four seasons.
Deborah: Yeah, we're hoping to stick around for a lot of seasons. And that was, I think, one of the challenges when Doctor LaCognata announced his resignation to move to South Dakota last February- that we were sort of like, he was a central part of this group and Tom's Smicklas and John LaCognata got to work together to form the group. And then John's signature was all over it. And so now we're having to figure it out and we've kind of gone through little bumps and we're just figuring it all out. The thought that we could have not existed was a terrible thought. And so we're all very excited that we're moving forward and we're getting through our fourth season and hopefully we'll start growing some more and we'll just continue to improve.
Gina: I think everybody was just like, you're doing what, you're going to what, South Dakota? Are you kidding me?
Deborah: We didn't believe it. I mean we still don't, but we're very excited that Dominic Talanca is willing to work with our group and watching him conduct has been a pleasure. And having Tom Smicklas conduct our group has also been a pleasure. That people are willing to make us go forward. And that's what's going on right now.
Gina: Can you can you tell me about Dominic? You've met him? Deborah: Yes yes. I was fortunate enough to get to meet him back in the spring. He met with us over coffee and we just talked about what our goals were and he listened. He's a very good listener. He's a very good musician. And so we've gotten to see his style as he's conducted Yosemite Autumn. And then of course this next concert season we'll get to learn a lot more from him, but he seems to be doing very well at UNCW. He's a he's a superb musician.
Gina: What does he play?
Deborah: His instrument is alto saxophone.
Deborah: Tom Smicklas hands over baton the baton on Sunday night. And then it's Dominic Talanca.
Gina: And I'm sorry, did you say he is doing New Horizons? Or no?
Deborah: Yes he is. He's doing both groups.
Gina: That's great.
Gina: All right now I want to ask you, Deborah, what are your- in terms of the concert- what are some of your favorite pieces that you're really looking forward to?
Deborah: Well some of the pieces I had never done before but I would like to say that, since is baseball season right now, the National Gang March by John Philip Sousa is going to be a lot of fun to play. And I think it's going to be fun for the audience to hear because they're going to hear, they're actually going to hear the sounds of a baseball bat on stage. Percussion section gets to do that. So that one's fun.
And then, when I was growing up in band programs we did a lot of orchestral transcriptions. People don't do them as much now as they used to. So I'm enjoying being able to do the orchestral transcriptions also. Especially Zampa.
And then also, West Side Story. The selections from West Side Story. This will be the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein. And so it's kind of nice to be celebrating that also and playing in that and these are melodies that everybody knows. Everybody will come to that concert they'll know those melodies because they've heard of most of their lives.