Posts tagged #mmc

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 .

Collaborating On City Trees – A Conversation With Michael Markowski & Brian Worsdale

by Alyssa Pry

Take a walk down a city block in New York City and you see them. Along residential blocks, lining up like soldiers. Clustered in parks. Posing as shady resting spots. Surrounded by traffic and horns and the constant pulse of New York. Tall, short, stubby, lush—they’re city trees—somehow surviving and growing in one of the toughest places to survive. They’re also the inspiration behind Michael Markowski’s piece of the same name, which the Grand Street Community Band will perform at their Carnegie Hall debut on June 6, 2015

GSCB director Brian Worsdale was directing the Gay and Lesbian Band Association in 2012 and wanted to commission a piece for the organization's 30th Anniversary. He immediately thought of Michael Markowski. The two had met several years before, and his point of view appealed to Worsdale for this project. 

“Every time I’ve listened to a piece of Michael’s, it’s been unique,” Worsedale said. “I wanted that for the piece. None of the pieces that have preceded [City Trees] have sounded anything like it, and nothing sounds like it since. Each piece has its own unique stamp.” 

The collaboration between the two started with the idea of a celebratory theme—but both Worsdale and Markowski wanted to avoid the standard marches and fanfares. It was a task that proved especially challenging for Markowski. 

“I had two months to write the piece, and for six weeks I tried to write some sort of celebratory something. And when it’s not working, it’s just not working,” Markowski said. “So with two weeks before the piece was due, I freaked out.” 

“If I remember correctly, it was a Friday afternoon, and I had a blog at the time, and I wrote a blog that was called, ‘I suck,’” Markowski shared. “I wrote about how much of a failure I felt like I was being for this particular piece, and making that public helped me get over that hurdle and just admit to myself that the piece needed to be organic, and stop forcing it to be something it wasn’t going to be.” 

Markowski wrote the initial chord progression and the piece clicked. “I was like, that’s the basis, that’s the seed of the piece,” he said. 

Worsdale recalled hearing the first mockup of the piece. “I listened to it, and I called and I said, ‘You nailed it.’”

Worsdale and Markowski continued to collaborate on refining the piece throughout rehearsal time, an experience that was enriched by the trust they had in each other, Worsdale said. 

“You know, a collaborative work between a composer and a conductor, when they have a good relationship, the composer trusts the conductor to enhance some of the sounds they want,” Worsdale said.

Markowski agreed. “Brian knows this piece better than I do,” he said. 

The piece premiered at the Lesbian and Gay Band association National Conference in Dallas, Texas; an emotional experience for both. 

“That’s why we write music,” Markowski said.  “Because living, breathing musicians can bring so much soul and so much heart to something you create in a way that’s different with every performance.” 

With the Grand Street Community Band preparing for their debut at Carnegie Hall, each performance allows Markowski an opportunity to hear City Trees in a new light. 

“It never gets old. Being at rehearsal has been different from every other time I’ve heard the piece,” Markowski said. “There’s always something new, so it gives you new things to think about.” 



Posted on May 6, 2015 .

Grand Street Band Plays Carnegie Hall!

We’re thrilled to have been invited by the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony to perform at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, June 6 at 8:00 PM. We’re playing music from our Great American Songbook program, including works by Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, and Jule Styne. Guest conductor Curt Ebersole, conductor and music director of the Westchester Symphonic winds will be leading us for one piece. We couldn’t be more excited to be performing at Carnegie Hall and hope you will join us! Tickets are available for purchase now at Carnegie Hall’s site. Please click here for tickets.

Posted on May 1, 2015 and filed under performances.

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.