Here are the last 5 questions I posed to the new Music Director of the Knightwind Ensemble.
MCM: What is your favorite: symphonic band piece? orchestral piece? popular piece? other?
EJ: This is like asking me to name my favorite star. I love them all! OK, OK, if you want me to pick just one piece for a favorite wind band work it would be...Russian Christmas Music by Alfred Reed. There are many others that I love, of course, but that is a work that, to me, will never go out of style - it will always powerfully affect students, performers, and audience members every time. Favorite Orchestral work: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Among all the wonderful musical elements, and its colossal position at the top of the cannon of western art music, I also just love that the various companies who got together to standardize CD technology in the 1990s could only agree that the new CD format should contain a full performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - the average performance being 74 minutes in length. If you ever wondered where the 74 minutes came from, there you go! For another favorite piece - gosh, I don't know. I know what I like in ANY piece of music, though - interesting melodic and harmonic lines, and the chance for players to really dig into the music and play. That is how I decide what I like in virtually all music, I guess.
MCM: During your career, did you play in any pop or rock groups?
EJ: Yes...can I just leave it at that? No, I guess not. OK fine. All through my high school years, I was the drummer and lead singer for a rock band which went by the hideous name of Burnt Toast and Jam. We did cover tunes mostly, and some original tunes in our later years (17 and 18!). Yes, I was the lead singer, no kidding. I was the Phil Collins of that band. It was a lot of fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything. However, last time I moved, I found some old recordings of that band, and after listening for about 2 minutes decided that those tapes should be permanently misplaced!
MCM: American or Canadian?
EJ: American - I guess the better phraseology would be United Statesian. To say one is American does not narrow it down very much - North or South American? I was born in San Antonia Texas and grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The only time I spent in Canada was three years I spent there in my first teaching position from 2001 to 2004. One of the things I would say, however, is that living outside the US is a very eye opening experience and one I would recommend to anyone. Even simply being in Canada, which most US citizens feel is the 51st state or something, you get a very different perspective of the world, and on what other countries think of the US. Very enlightening.
MCM: What do you enjoy most that is not music?
EJ: I love dogs - my wife and I have 2 dogs - a German Shepherd mix named Jesse, and a Dachsund named Oscar (Oscar the wiener dog). I also very much enjoy sports - football and college basketball (of course) and cycling. Yes, I am a Packers fan in case anyone is wondering and I am a true Packers fan. I started rooting for them when I was a kid in the UP of Michigan, when the quarterbacks were Lynne Dickey and David Whitehurst!
MCM: What are your goals for the first few years of your tenure as Music Director of the Knightwind Ensemble?
EJ: My goals for Knightwind are to: 1) bring more exposure to this wonderful ensemble, and 2) continue to select and perform wind band music of the highest quality to challenge the players. Sounds pretty simple, right? I would like to see if the Knightwind Ensemble can get invited to the Wisconsin Music Conference in Madison, and I would like to look into putting together a CD for sale by the group. Lastly, I plan on talking with the Board of Directors about the possibility of some sort of holiday pops concert - it seems like a natural event that we are missing out on as a part of our calendar.
There you have it! Q and A with Dr. Erik Janners, Director of Music at Marquette University and the newly appointed Music Director of the Knightwind Ensemble.