Posts tagged #brooklynwindsymphony

Into the Universe with Composer Anthony Barfield

By Alyssa Pry

Composer Anthony Barfield has his head in the stars.

“We all come from the same place, we’re all one - the question is, where do we come from?” he mused about his piece Red Sky, one of two pieces the MMC will be performing at Modern Wind Symphony on Sunday, March 19th.

Both Red Sky and North Star draw from Barfield’s fascination with what exists both around and above us.

“When I got into music and started traveling, I started seeing there were different religions and everyone believed that was their truth. I sort of had a big question mark in my life for, what is spiritualism to me? Where do we come from?” Barfield said. “That big question mark put me on a quest to find what the best meaning was for me. So by studying that, I became fascinated by the creation of us.”  

Aside from this deep exploration and introspection, Barfield finds himself firmly planted in this world as both an accomplished musician and talented composer. As a child growing up in Mississippi, it was a music teacher who pulled him aside after recognizing his talents.

“I always knew I could hear things a certain way. It was just sort of a gift,” he said. “So one day they called me in and said, Anthony, what is this note right here? And I told them, and they said, ‘Well you have what’s called perfect pitch.’ So that was cool to define.”  

His fascination and talent for music lead him to Juilliard, where he began studying trombone performance. But once he was there, he decided to focus on composition instead, a change he says happened organically.

“When you’re in a place like Juilliard, I never thought about it as, ‘Ok, it’s a really difficult school, I’m going to get through it and then quit [playing],’” he said. “It was a situation of being in the moment, living in the moment, soaking up as much as I could, regardless if it was trombone or composition, just as much art as I could, and running with it.”

For Barfield, this attitude has seeped into the way he approaches composition.

“I consider myself to be a creator,” he said. “I consider myself to be an emotional composer. So the organic part of it is that I try to make sure I’m attached to the piece emotionally.”

Grand Street Community Band will be performing Red Sky with trombone soloist Jon Whitaker, Professor of Trombone at the University of Alabama. The piece is based on the concept of the Big Bang Theory, and Barfield explained his process for how he wrapped his head around such a vast idea.

“I tried to get into the true feelings - the piece is about the creation of life as we know it,” he said. “So to get into it, I did a lot of meditation to steal the sense of creation. And then from there, I write down aural notes - [for example] the word ‘bang’ - something that will spark an idea. Then I come up with the chord structures and the melody comes from the chords.”

“That’s the most important thing for me - making sure I can stay true to who I am with my music.”

Barfield drew on similar inspiration when composing North Star, which Brooklyn Wind Symphony will be performing with soloists Joe Alessi, the principal trombonist with the New York Philharmonic, and Chris Coletti, the principal trumpeter with Canadian Brass.  The piece is based on the journey through the Underground Railroad and the way African Americans used the night sky to guide them to freedom.

“African Americans, because they could not read, would learn the patterns of the North Star and use those patterns in the sky from the Big Dipper as a way to follow the path,” he said. “They travelled at night and they basically used nature and the universe to help them escape.”

Barfield said North Star holds another, more current, political message, and says it was the first piece where he made a conscious choice to make a political statement with his music.

“It’s a time where there is a lot of police brutality going on, and we need a modern underground railroad for people who are being shot by police. I felt a strong connection with that,” he said.

For Barfield, the message and the music need to ring true to who he is.

“That’s the most important thing for me--making sure I can stay true to who I am with my music.”

Barfield says he’s been lucky to work with collaborators who respect his vision and give him the freedom to explore his ideas without restriction.

“Every piece, I just want to make sure I stay true to myself. I do appreciate that people give me flexibility, because that’s the only way that I will make a voice for myself.”

Getting to Know...Ethan Bourdeau

Spring is (sorta, kinda maybe?) here, which means a new season, a new concert cycle, and meeting new members! Stepping up to the plate this month is Brooklyn Wind Symphony euphonium player Ethan Bourdeau! Ethan joined the BWKS in September and brings with him a laundry list of musical talents. (If there's ever a conch horn solo, Ethan's your guy!)

Name: Ethan Bourdeau

Occupation: Architectural Acoustical Consultant

What's your favorite thing about your day job? I enjoy learning about and practicing social responsibility in noise mitigation, especially in such an urban environment like NYC where everyone is likely to be affected in one way or another. 

Instruments: Euphonium, Jazz/Classical Guitar, Bass, Mandolin, Cello, Charango, Trombone, Tenor Horn, Tuba, Keyboard, Percussion/Kit, Conch Horn…I can go on, but I love learning new instruments, especially ethnic/world instruments…it’s totally an obsession.

How long have you been playing with the BKWS? I just joined this past September!

How did you get started with the MMC? Once I knew I was moving to the city, I wanted to find a way keep playing the Euphonium. Naturally, the BKWS seemed like a great community of skilled, passionate musicians that I am fortunate to now be a part of!

What's your favorite MMC memory? The day before the Michael Markowski CD recording I came down with pneumonia and was worried it would keep me from performing well for such a long period of time, let alone render me too sick to come out at all. I’m not sure what it was, but during the recording session, despite being sick, I managed to out-perform how I had been playing in the rehearsals leading up to it…it was wild stuff!

What's the first thing that comes up on your ipod when you press shuffle? Ov Zarmanali by Tigran Hamasyan (the dude is one of my absolute favorite musicians!)

Dream spring break destination? Mauritius

What is your typical Sunday routine? Cycle for the better part of the day, try a new recipe for dinner, and practice some guitar before bed.

Give us a "local" New York/Brooklyn recommendation: TØRST in Greenpoint is easily my favorite hang in the city. The best beers and, supposedly, exquisite dining in the back restaurant.

Finish this sentence: "I knew I was a musician when....” …I pleaded with my elementary school teacher to give the “stand-up-in-front-of-the-band" euphonium solo to me instead of the trombone player so long as I promised to practice more at home.

Posted on April 12, 2016 .

A Look Inside "Tetelestai" – Talking to Andrew Boss

By Alyssa Pry

These are classic music questions: How should a piece of music be interpreted? What should the listener feel? And who is responsible for shaping that experience? Composer Andrew Boss is purposefully leaving those questions unanswered with his symphony Tetelestai, which Brooklyn Wind Symphony will be performing at MMC’s March 20th concert, Modern Wind Symphony.

“I take an interpretive approach [to composing],” Boss said. “I’m very fascinated by interpretation and the cognitive experience behind music.”

The 27-year-old composer burst on the wind-band scene with the premiere of his 2014 symphony Tetelestai, which was performed by the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, where he is also pursuing his Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition.

The symphony is framed around the biblical account of the death, fall and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But instead of retelling the story, Boss wanted to interpret the images and emotions he felt through music.

Boss also looked to the meaning behind the word “Tetelestai,” which is Greek for “It is finished” and is supposedly the last word spoken by Jesus before his death.

“I’m absolutely fascinated by religion, and I would call myself religious, with a few reservations,” he said. “But what was more fascinating to me was the story line, and the word “Teleo,” which implies that something has been done that can’t be reversed." 

Boss had already completed the first movement of the symphony and planned to have it performed as a stand-alone piece. But it was his collaboration with renowned conductor Jerry Junkin that introduced the idea of expanding it into something larger. 

“I knew if there was anyone I wanted to perform this, whatever it would become, it would be Jerry Junkin,” Boss said. “And the piece was read and it was great, and I thought, well this is going to be a bigger piece.”

Junkin then commissioned Boss to create a new work for him, after listening to some of Boss's other work. 

“That was certainly a huge impetus in my desire to make this a bigger piece,” Boss said. “And after the first movement and before I completed the next two, I decided to bring in the religious component.”

"Different people bring in their beliefs and understanding of the world as they sit down and listen to it, and that determines how they listen to it."

Boss turned to the biblical tale to frame the three movements of his symphony. 

“I tried to clarify the three movements as the crucifixion, the battle [of life and death] and the resurrection,” Boss said.

Regardless of religious beliefs or a person’s understanding of religion, Boss wanted the listener to go on a journey--their experience with the piece shaped by their own personal connections to the music.

“Different people bring in their beliefs and understanding of the world as they sit down and listen to it, and that determines how they listen to it,” he said. “[And] how they experience it will impact what they feel about it and the images they see or feel,” Boss said. 

Boss portrayed the death of Jesus for the first movement, Homage, and was moved by feelings of betrayal, despair, suffering and death. The symphony begins with a clanging of percussion, and then introduces a distant and melancholy horn solo. The movement ebbs and flows—full bursts of sound giving way to exposed solo lines; an ominous low brass line building to a bombastic climax; before returning again to the haunting and lingering notes of the french horn. 

“[In the first movement] I portrayed the death [of Jesus] — which really gives a powerful set of feelings,” Boss said. “If you’re not religious, it’s symbolizing hardship or suffering—things that are very real in society today.”

The second movement, Tocatta, is Boss’s interpretation of the war between heaven and sin, during the three days between the death and resurrection. For Boss, it’s a conflict between two opposing forces—the rhythmic introduction to the 2nd movement swells to a frantic flurry of instrumentation, a thrilling battle cry. The movement is a constant push and pull between moments of intensity and relief.

“The second movement was about war in those three days between death and resurrection,” Boss explained. “It could symbolize an obstacle that you’re trying to overcome.” 

The symphony’s final movement, Interlude and Finale, is Boss’s portrayal of the resurrection, and he looked towards feelings related to victory and rebirth. The reflective interlude at the beginning of the movement transitions to the symphony’s soaring finale, a powerful and unrelenting crescendo leading to the final ringing notes.

“For the final movement, obviously I felt I needed to portray the resurrection. And whether that was a personal rebirth or a depiction of the resurrection—it eventually brings its way to a catharsis,” Boss said.

“[Tetelestai] gets to that point where it transcends being notes on a page and it becomes emotion...and it becomes that perfection of existence we get when we play music.”

The 25-minute symphony caught the ear of Brooklyn Wind Symphony conductor Jeff Ball, who was immediately drawn to the originality of the work.

“It’s a piece that has such a unique voice to it—there are parts that really don’t sound like anything else for the genre,” Ball said. “I really respect someone that can make the wind band sound different.”

Ball said the experience of listening to Boss’s piece epitomizes the beauty of wind band music, and for musicians, captures the joy of playing within an ensemble.

“The goal of music and the reason why we’re all here in these community ensembles is that we all at some point in our life became addicted to that feeling,” Ball said. “[Tetelestai] gets to that point where it transcends being notes on a page and it becomes emotion and it becomes power and it becomes that perfection of existence we get when we play music.”

For Boss, working with the wind band community has allowed him the freedom to explore and challenge himself as a composer. 

“Because of the friendliness and support of the wind ensemble medium, that was a huge boost to my career,” Boss said. “They’re very open to doing different things.”

Boss will be sitting in the audience at Sunday’s concert; an experience Ball says is a unique and thrilling part of the wind band community.

“It’s been amazing working with him because he’s been extremely accessible. A lot of these [composers] in the wind band world are, [which is] something we’re fortunate to have,” Ball said. “It’s really amazing; that our composers are living and they’re excited we’re doing their work. We’re literally contributing to the future of classical music.” 

MMC Artist Series: Jill Austen's Floral Symphony

We're fast approaching the third concert of the 2015-16 season, Modern Wind Symphony, a joint program with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Grand Street Community Band. GSCB's program will feature music inspired by "the third stream," a fusion of classical and jazz-influenced works including Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli and Asphalt Cocktail by John Mackey; and BKWS will be performing Andrew Boss's 2014 work, Tetelestai- A Symphony for Wind Ensemble, among other contemporary selections.  

Tasked with combining and interpreting such a varied concert program was artist and musician Jill Austen. Jill is a flutist with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony and has been playing with the Metropolitan Music Community since their very first rehearsal! As an accomplished music educator, musician and artist, Jill has worked and taught around the US, Mexico and the Caribbean and currently has some of her art work displayed at Columbia University.

Jill describes her paintings as "quirky and whimsical, and always colorful." Her painting, titled Metaphoric Wind Ensemble, is a combination of both ensembles' concert themes, and incorporates Jill's love of nature and floral motifs. Read on to hear about the challenges Jill experienced creating this piece and where she finds inspiration for her art, and see her process and more of her work in the slideshow below! 

Finding a common thread...

"At first it seemed an impossible commission. Both programs, although extremely creative, had little in common. On the GSCB side, wonderful representational possibilities lie in the classical/jazz fusion of their third stream music line-up. However, the BKWS program, which features the extended complexities of a new symphony (Tetelestai), was not so artistically straightforward. I did not want to focus on a single piece or musical style at the exclusion of others. Visual metaphor seemed the way to go."

Getting Started...

"First, I listened to recordings of the music and jotted down ideas in the form of pencil sketches. While I played around with several ideas, I kept coming back to the flowers in small bottles. [Then] I did a preliminary study in watercolor. Satisfied I had worked out the composition, I sketched the final version in charcoal over a peach-toned underpainting. I began by focusing on the individual blooms and adjusted for color hue and intensity as the work progressed. Next, I concentrated on achieving "believable" transparent bottles - always a fun challenge - and finally, I heightened the contrast of the bright light and purple shadows."

A Floral Symphony...

"Flowers in small bottles are arranged like the rows of a musical ensemble. Single blooms indicate the individuality of performers within the group, but work together in a larger, cohesive composition, like musical collaboration. Bell-shaped lilies in the last row stand in for brass instruments: the single white lily is a reference to the biblical theme of the [Tetelestai] symphony. Overall, bright colors evoke the many shades of jazz and the contemporary sonorities of both GSCB and BKWS programs."

Staying Inspired...

"I'm never at a loss for projects, especially if they involve collaboration and travel. I am fascinated by the interconnectedness of music, art and and poetry. On December 31, 2015, I completed a challenging year-long project, The 365 Series, for which I completed a painting a day. I find inspiration for painting in traditional subjects--landscape, seascape, still life, floral. Nature is fond of sculptural beauty and unexpected juxtapositions of form and color. I simply strive to interpret those which I find most lyrical."

See much more of Jill's work on her website,  

MMC Artist Series: Kristin Sedivec Remixes a Classic

Our second cycle is well-underway; both bands preparing for our December 12th concert 40 Under 40 at the Grand Street High School at 7 PM. The concert will include a joint performance by Grand Street Community Band and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony of Alfred Reed's Russian Christmas Music. 

Designing the program art for this cycle is Brooklyn Wind Symphony oboist Kristin Sedivec. Aside from playing in BKWS and as an oboist with Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, Kristin is a stellar tattoo artist who specializes in music-related tattoo art. She has a private studio in Brooklyn and has tattooed six current and former members of the Brooklyn Wind Symphony with her designs! Kristin is even offering to tattoo this cycle's program art on willing participants for free! (Now or never folks! Send her a Facebook message!) 

Kristin combined the contemporary styles of the 40 Under 40 concert theme and played off the traditional motif of Russian nesting dolls in her design. Read on for more of Kristin's thought process in creating the program art, and scroll through the slide-show to see the piece in progress, along with more of her artwork! 

Gathering Inspiration...

"To get inspiration, I made a spotify playlist with every song for both bands and just put it on repeat while I was working on it. I already knew I loved Russian Christmas Music and I thought it could be fun to incorporate the themes of other pieces into the intricate designs of Russian stacking dolls. 

Mixing Modern and Traditional....

"The turning point came when I saw the name of one of GSCB's pieces is in the massive boom boxes of the 80s and 90s that are carried on shoulders. That brings to mind all things early hip-hop, heavy graffiti, and even heavier lip-liner. It wasn't until I was staring at my design of a chick holding a boombox that I remembered "Top 40" [music] is also a thing. 

There isn't one stand-out programmatic piece among a list of abstract standard repertoire, so it was hard to choose. The music itself is really colorful for both bands this cycle." 

Incorporating Tattoo Style....

"Sarah Cohen (our head graphic designer) originally asked if I wanted to contribute a photo for the cover. She left it totally up to me and even said it could be photos of tattoos I had done. I liked that idea, but I couldn't figure out a way to combine existing photos in a pleasing way or to get a group shot of band members I've inked, so I just scratched that idea and decided to draw something new. 

That urban graffiti aesthetic is also a common tattoo style, so turning the Russian stacking dolls into a stylized tattoo sketch seemed like a good fit. I definitely had to Google some boombox references, but then the curvy and cartoony elements were just fun." 

Mixing Music and Tattoos....

"I did that kokopelli tattoo (in the slideshow) on my former high school band director's forearm. It can be seen by all of his students and the community band he conducts. I never would have predicted that back when we were sitting in his office discussing my upcoming college auditions! And then a year after I tattooed him, he was in the audience watching [BKWS] at Midwest! It just goes to show you that you never know where life will take you!"


Posted on November 18, 2015 .

David Gould Takes His Chances

David Gould.jpg

By Alyssa Pry

When David Gould discusses his career as a professional clarinetist, it’s not through the boasting character of a Julliard-trained musician who has performed with the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater or on Broadway (…to name a few.) There are no great proclamations of ego, no vanity, no arrogance. 

Instead, Gould is acutely aware of the string of small moments of luck and happenstance, combined with his talent, that have built his illustrious career; those eye-opening moments of clarity that, yes, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is worth the work I’m putting in.

“Things started happening one thing at a time,” Gould said. “These things added up to these moments that continued to validate it for me.”

As a professional clarinetist, Gould has an impressive roster of accomplishments: playing with the New York Philharmonic; as third clarinetist with American Ballet Theater; in Broadway shows like West Side Story and On the Town. On Sunday, he will join the Brooklyn Wind Symphony to perform Michael Markowski’s clarinet concerto Unfamiliar Territory.

[It’s] a chance to discover new music, to play as a soloist, to meet new people, to play in a new ensemble, to see a new part of Brooklyn,” Gould said about performing with BKWS. “That’s really for me, some of the things that are great about it.”

But Gould’s journey to the Grand Street High School stage on Sunday afternoon has not been a straight one of success.  Rather, the twists and turns of Gould’s musical path started even before he picked up a clarinet. As a child, Gould’s parents encouraged him and his two older brothers to learn an instrument, and Gould assumed he’d play the trumpet, like his “cool older brother.”

“My father said, no, why don’t you play the clarinet? This was a point when he was listening to a lot of Artie Shaw and Bennie Goodman, and he loves music of that era,” Gould said. “And I was like, ‘um, I don’t know.’ And we were actually at an antique car show and flea market and he bought a clarinet and gave it to me.”

Gould became more serious about playing throughout high school, performing in honors ensembles, and was then accepted to Julliard, where the idea of becoming a professional musician started to move closer to reality.

“I always thought all along that I would be a teacher, because that seemed like the best thing,” he said. “And when I got accepted to Julliard, I think that’s when it started to percolate.”

After graduating, Gould accepted a grant to study in France, where he lived for three years. He then took a job working with the French reed and mouthpiece company, Vandoren, where he still works today. But Gould described a time early in his career when he really started to question if it was all going to work. 

“I think that any good musician always has to question, am I on the right track?" 

“I was really going through a lot. I wasn’t making enough money, and was starting to think about it—maybe it’s better to get rid of this,” Gould said. “I was getting kind of depressed, [thinking] I can’t do this; all this stuff rolling around my head.”

But then, another chance moment that suddenly set the wheels spinning forward—a phone call from an old friend, looking for players for a high school production of West Side Story.

“I came home that night after that first rehearsal, and I get a phone call from a guy I’ve known and he said, “Would you be interested in subbing on West Side Story, on the Broadway revival,’” Gould recalled. “It was kind of hilarious. I went, you’re not going to believe this [but] I just rehearsed with a friend’s high school! And I probably played that [show] 150 times and loved every second of it." 

For Gould, it was exactly what he needed. 

“It got me playing more often and opened up some other doors, and reminded people that I still existed,” Gould said with a laugh.

 Another moment of ­­surprise: his opportunity to play with the New York Philharmonic.

“I can still remember the first time—the firsts are always what stick with you. I was playing at City Center; I remember the middle of the dress rehearsal, I got a text from a friend, ‘Hey are you around? I wanted to see if you wanted to play with the New York Philharmonic,’” Gould recalled. “And it was like walking on air!”

Gould has taken these successes and challenges as motivation, and has an appreciation for what it has taken to get where he is today.   

“I think that any good musician always has to question, am I on the right track? That should continue to push you to strive for better things.”

His passion for performance is something he says he sees working with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, an experience he says has been inspiring to him.

“It’s really going to the root of amateur—loving to do what they do. People are doing this because they want to be here. Here there’s a real passion,” he said.

Performing Unfamiliar Territory has been a departure from the classical repertoire Gould plays in his professional life, and he’s enjoying the change of pace.

“It's contemporary music you want to listen to and play—it’s rare,” he said of the piece. “You look at it and it looks very black and white. [Then] you’re playing it, and there’s melody, but it really feels like you’re setting up a mood.”

“There’s going to come a point where you’re going to have to learn to let go.”

Gould has worked closely with composer Michael Markowski in preparation for Sunday’s concert, and will also be performing the concerto when the Brooklyn Wind Symphony records Markowski’s music next month.

Gould had some words of advice for Markowski, drawing on his experiences producing his own recording project, The Forgotten Clarineta collection of lesser-known French works for clarinet and piano. 

“There’s going to come a point where you’re going to have to learn to let go,” he told Markowski. “It’s limitless what one can do, but after a while, it’s going to start to lose the spontaneity and magic.”

Gould seems to be following his own advice, allowing moments and opportunities to shape his career, ultimately recognizing them as a chance to share his talent and love for playing.

“That’s our goal," Gould said.  "Ultimately as a performer, we’re there to interpret the music and also really steward the music to other people.”

MMC Artist Series: Al Perkins Paints the Music

This year, the Metropolitan Music Community commissioned several of its members to create art for the concert programs and marketing materials. For our November 1st concert, the Grand Street Community Band will be performing a variety of Halloween-themed selections for their concert, "Things That Go Bump in the Night"; followed by Brooklyn Wind Symphony's performance, "A Night with Michael Markowski."  

Our first artist is Al Perkins, the principal horn player for the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. Al has been with the MMC since 2009 and also serves as the organization's librarian. Al is not only a talented musician, but a gifted artist, often finding inspiration through music. For this first "Artist Series," Al shared his process of creating the program art for this cycle--creating his pieces based on "Dance of the Witches" and Michael Markowski's "City Trees." He even gave MMC an inside peak at his studio space! Read on below and take a look at more of Al's work in the slideshow. 

Starting with the music...

"It's very important for me to know the piece intimately, and more so what the piece is trying to say. [For example] Michael's program notes are always a good place to start, even though on once occasion I had to turn to him to get a better insight. 

Once I absorb the music and the material, I try to capture the mood as I see it. Then it's almost like purging. Once it starts flowing, it's fast and furious."

Creating "City Trees"

"City Trees" was based on a photo I found so it had details of a real building. Then I started to layer it so it had an almost impressionistic feel. I wanted the tree to be a contrast to the roughness behind it, but I didn't want it to look like it was in a different painting. So I tried to always be aware of where the light was coming from and to keep it all consistent." 

On "Dance of the Witches" 

"I had to mull over the GSCB's program for a while to find the one that jumped out at me. The more obvious choice would have been to go with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," but I felt "Dance of the Witches" would have made a better overall image. 

The witches in "Dance of the Witches" started as sketches, which I later carved into a stencil on a piece of acetate that could tape down on the canvas and brush over.  For the shadows I used painter's tape to allow me to dry brush the color to get the effect I was looking for."

Creating the final pieces....

"A lot depends on what I'm trying to do -- if the image is literal or implied.  I'll sometimes find pictures and paste images together for the composition I'm looking for and use it as a guide.  Then I'll figure out what sort of technique I want to use, or what the piece calls for.  Often I'll turn to YouTube to learn a new technique or two (remember, I'm still fairly new to this painting thing, so I have a lot to learn).

And then there are times when I approach an effect in a similar way that I would if I'm painting a theater set, which is viewed from a distance, not too close. (But) if I dwell too long on one painting, the soul of it is usually lost. It's an image--a thought--so I try not to belabor it. That's why I try to keep it simple and I don't obsess once it's done."

Posted on October 7, 2015 .

Jeffrey Hodes Takes the Stage—Preparing Maslanka’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble

By Alyssa Pry

Talking to Jeffrey Hodes, the principal clarinetist for the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, you’re immediately struck by his excitement and enthusiasm for just about, well, everything. Over the course of our interview, we discussed his job as a software engineer at Google: “I freaking love computer science”; discovering the Brooklyn Wind Symphony after a friend encouraged him to join: “That’s awesome, I found a good group!”; to his preparations for his performance of David Maslanka’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble:  “Playing a concerto is always super fun.” 

Hodes will be performing Maslanka’s concerto at the Brooklyn Wind Symphony’s “Postcards” concert on June 13th, before performing it with the group at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) in July. While most people may find the prospect of playing a twenty-minute clarinet concerto in front of hundreds of people daunting, for Hodes, it’s simply an opportunity to continue to follow his passion for music. 

“I’m super happy with how I’ve ended up being able to play a lot of clarinet non-professionally,” Hodes said. “Brooklyn Wind Symphony is one of those high-level groups for non-professionals and it’s super fun that I get to play with them.” 

Hodes may not be professional clarinetist, but he’s managed to create a life where it plays a major part. He attended Princeton University and played with the Princeton University Orchestra and other chamber groups, an experience he describes with trademark enthusiasm as “a blast.” After graduating, he was offered a position at Google Headquarters in California, but chose the tech company's New York office, in part for the city’s unbeatable music scene. 

“I decided I wanted to live in New York instead, in no small part because of the music community here,” he said. “Not only are the best orchestras here, but as a non-professional, you can take lessons and practice and play with other great people,” he said. 

Hodes also performs with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, as well as in various chamber groups. The opportunity to play with BKWS involved a bit of happenstance and good timing—both he and BKWS clarinetist Sarah Cohen were subbing for players with the New York Doctor’s Symphony, and Cohen asked if he would be interested in joining her group.  

“I was like sure, because I was new to New York and was like, ‘I want to play in everything,’” he said.  

But what stuck with Hodes initially was not his immediate success within the ensemble, but an early chastisement from conductor Jeff Ball. 

“I was playing and I got told off by Jeff Ball for playing too loud in the first rehearsal,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a really good sign when you get told off in a rehearsal; that means the group is playing at a high enough level that your mistakes are noticeable and worth mentioning.”

And now, Hodes has the opportunity to play with the enthusiasm he had in that first rehearsal as he tackles Maslanka’s Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble. Written in 2014, there have been no published recordings of the piece, which gives Hodes the opportunity to explore and interpret it in his own way. 

“This is the classic question—when you’re reading a poem, should you care what the author’s intent was or should you read it however you want? [Maslanka] wrote it, but we’re performing it,” Hodes said.  “And part of the fun of being a musician is interpreting the music and playing it in an interesting or compelling way.”

For Hodes, that’s meant looking at the piece as a whole, and how he fits into it within the context of the ensemble. 

“It’s an interesting piece. Unlike a lot of concertos, where it’s a solo line, and then goes back to the orchestra and they never really step over the soloist, [here] the instruments are playing with the soloist or playing in direct harmony,” he explained. “It’s really about the clarinet and one or two other sections at any given moment. It’s a very active collaboration with people in the band.” 

But working towards a high level of performance has meant daily practices for Hodes, often in some unexpected places. 

“I am definitely practicing this every day. [And] I’ll do weird stuff—because I don’t want to get noise complaints at my apartment, I’ll walk back to my office at midnight if I don’t have anything else to do and practice for 2-3 hours,” he said. 

Aside from working out the technical elements of the piece, Hodes’ goal is to feel confident in his playing.  

“With a concerto, you obviously have to practice a lot so you’re confident. From my experience, if I’m like, ‘I got this,’ then I won’t get too nervous,” he said.  

And if mistakes happen?  

 “You have to keep in mind—the audience isn’t waiting for you to mess up so they can go, ‘Oh! He messed up! What a loser!’” Hodes said. “They’re here to listen to it, but if you miss a note, everyone understands.” 

Hodes’ laid-back attitude towards playing has kept him grounded and calm during his practice and preparation, but if David Maslanka decides to make an appearance to hear his performance of the challenging concerto, Hodes may have to deal with those nerves after all.  

 “I think knowing that David Maslanka is in the audience might make me a little more nervous,” he said, laughing. “[But] I want him to think, ‘What a nice interpretation this group gave.’” 


Posted on June 19, 2015 .

The Ghosts of Carnegie Hall


by Dean Olsher

Here’s what it’s like to play Carnegie Hall. There are ghosts all around you. You look at the podium and think: Let’s see, on opening day in 1891, that’s where Tchaikovsky was standing when he conducted his Marche Solennelle. And in the years that followed, it’s where Dvořák stood, and Mahler, and a phenomenally long list of boldfaced names.

New York City is afraid of ghosts. We know this because the city has worked extra hard to chase them away. To live here is to sit atop layers of history that vanish daily. But everywhere you look, there are quiet allusions to that history and to the usually benevolent ghosts who made it. 

The name of the park where you stand in long lines for a burger is a reminder that the original Madison Square Garden—a monument to the Gilded Age—used to stand there. And for older New Yorkers, walking into Penn Station is the insult added to the mortal injury suffered by the glorious transportation palace it replaced. 

Carnegie Hall itself came within a hair’s breadth of being demolished. Its Stern Auditorium is named for the friendliest ghost of all. The legendary violinist Isaac Stern led the fight to protect this architectural gem from “urban renewal.” 

For the past 125 years, Carnegie Hall has been home to the top rung of musicians from around the world. But—and this is a remarkable thing—its green room is accessible to others as well. Musicians who work fiercely at their art, but who happen to not get paid for it, are given the chance to take the stage. 

And this year that opportunity is being given to both ensembles that make up the Metropolitan Music Community. The Brooklyn Wind Symphony made its Carnegie Hall debut on April 13, and the Grand Street Community Band will do so on June 6.

It is near impossible to take an experience such as this for granted. For many of us, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be connected to the larger universe—of music, the city, and its history—and to step, for a brief moment, into a parade of legendary ghosts.

Posted on June 3, 2015 .

This Summer: BKWS at WASBE 2015 in San Jose, CA

Brooklyn Wind Symphony is packing its bags and flying cross-country to perform at the World Association for Symphonic Bands & Ensembles on Monday, July 13th at 8pm. We are honored to have been accepted into this international wind band gathering, and are proud to be featuring two BKWS member soloists, Jeffrey Hodes on clarinet, and Samantha K. Enriquez on flute. We will be performing works by Michael Markowski, Scott McAllister, David Maslanka and more! For a full performance schedule, please visit the WASBE 2015 Concert Schedule page.

Local San Jose friends and family of Brooklyn Wind Symphony and the Metropolitan Music Community, we hope to see you there! 

Posted on April 30, 2015 and filed under performances.

BKWS at the Midwest Clinic this Saturday, Dec. 21 @ 8:30A

Brooklyn WInd Symphony will perform in Chicago in just a few days! We are honored to perform at the Midwest Clinic this year and cannot wait to be on stage in front of fellow musicians and music educators alike. Stay tuned for updates from the clinic, or follow ourfacebook and twitter feeds for the most up-to-date information.   

Lastly, a special Thank You goes to our President, Jasmine Britt, our Director, Jeff Ball, and our entire Board and Staff for logistically making this performance possible. Chicago here we come!

Posted on December 17, 2013 and filed under performances.