2016 marked the 70th anniversary of the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. Even though this was the first time I had attended, it was clear to see why this was such a prestigious musical and educational event.
Over the course of four days, there was the opportunity to attend a number of highly informative clinics, ranging from those on conducting, arranging, rehearsal technique and perhaps most importantly recruitment. These were all led by recognised experts and the wealth of knowledge and information taken away from these sessions was invaluable.
Attending the Midwest also opened my eyes to the standard of the American High School Bands. This not only highlighted the potential of our own students back home, but also showed what could be achieved when music and in particular band, is treated as a serious part of the school curriculum.
Other ensembles of note were the President's Own Marine Band (who as part of their concert gave the premier performance of Paul Lavender's transcription of John Williams' trumpet concerto), the Chicago Symphony Youth Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Desert Winds.
Another important part of the experience was getting to meet and connect with new people. Speaking with Paul Lavender whose band arrangements we have played back home and Tom Hooten the principal trumpet player of the Los Angeles Philharmonic where two memorable encounters.
Four days is not enough to take in everything the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic has to offer. It is certainly an experience that I intend to repeat and would highly recommend to any serious music educator in the UK.
Chris Tratt - Junior Band Director - Archbishop Beck Catholic College Liverpool
70th Annual Mid-West and Claude T Smith
Even after a span 30 years of visits to the Mid-West International Band and Orchestra Conference, “People, Places and Performances” were a significant part of this tribal gathering of music educators from across America and the globe.
To describe the Mid-West as one major net-working organisation is an understatement. It is impossible to enter the world of the most prestigious music educator’s conference without encountering a warmth of welcome second to none.
One such experience from the 2016 conference was meeting the family of the late Claude T Smith. I had the sincere pleasure of meeting and working with Claude on one of his numerous visits to Australia in the 70’s.
I did not realise that he would continue to play an important musical role in my life. In 1988, I relocated to live in England. I was appointed to St Mary’s College, Crosby, (Liverpool area of the England).
I set about establishing a band programme in the new school. When my ensemble was finally up to a suitable standard, a number of years down the road, I programmed for Festival the much loved and educationally sound Smith’s -Declaration Overture. This piece was to be performed on numerous occasions in my life as a Band Director in the UK. I might add, without sounding conceited, my ensembles always gained first place with this work! The students loved it and parents loved hearing it.
However, I have a special memory of this work. I was appointed as Director of Music, Archbishop Beck Catholic College, Liverpool, (after my spell at St Mary’s) I set about starting the instrumental programme and once again had to wait until the ensemble had developed to a suitable standard to programme, yes, you said it, Declaration Overture.
So, further down the musical road, I received a request from one of our leaving senior students’ parents, (leaving High School to go University normally is year 12 in the UK), “could the Band play Declaration Overture at the end of year concert” – we always did a “LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS” concert to conclude the year. So I thought what a great idea! Thanks Bethany Mawdsley and your mum for the request.
It dawned on me that through good band literature, over her tenure in the programme, that no only had we managed to educate the students, but had indeed taught the parents to appreciate good band literature, and so Declaration Overture by Claude T Smith was performed to a very receptive audience.
President of the Board of Directors of the Mid-West CLinic, Professor Richard Craine was on hand to warmly welcome the contingent from Archbishop Beck Catholic College. He assured us that over the coming days we would be “Enlighten, Entertained and Encouraged” in our work as music educators. The Mid West provided an outstanding degree of professional growth, an amazing opportunity of networking with top professionals from all corners of the globe, all wrapped up in an inspirational atmosphere second to none.
From the Wednesday morning concert by “The President’s Own” Band Chamber Ensembles to the Saturday grand finale concert by the Tokyo Geidai Wind Orchestra, there was exemplary school, adult and professional bands, orchestra, jazz and chamber ensembles from across America and around the globe. 2016 conference saw an incredible number of the world’s leading iconic pedagogues who presented outstanding master classes in all areas of instrumental music.
The highlights were many, but to name a few, attending the 70th Anniversary Gala Dinner. At this event the President reminded all that when the “first Mid-West occurred in 1946, petrol was 21 cents a gallon, it started with 3 music educators who over the years guided the Mid-West to have the special relationship it developed amongst American music educators. An amazing legacy from the 3 founding Bandmasters”. An inspirational concert given by the United States Marines Band gave great insight into an amazing organisation. The most famous conductor was the 15th Director of Music John Phillip Sousa.
Bruce Peter Hicks
Liverpool, England 2016
Footnote: The first part of this article was written after meeting Pam Smith Kelly (daughter of Claude Smith) who is compiling a book called “The Legacy” and was seeking stories and reflections about her dad.