Sunday, July 25, 2010

Q and A with Dr. Erik Janners - Part 2

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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Q and A with Dr. Erik Janners, part 1

I promised some questions and answers with the new Music Director of the Knightwind Ensemble. Here are the first 5 questions and their answers. The next 5 will be posted next week.

Milwaukee Community Music: How did you first get involved with music?

Dr. Erik Janners: My mom and dad enrolled me in Suzuki violin at the age of 4 or 5 - I don't remember my exact age. I did violin, guitar, and piano on and off before finally deciding on percussion in about grade 8.

MCM: What convinced you that music was a calling and not a hobby?

EJ: I loved to play, I loved to perform, I was never bored by it, and I was continually challenged by music. That last point, really, is what is still true today - there is always something new, something more to learn or to get out of a piece. I also really enjoy the interpersonal aspect of music making - as a player I much prefer chamber music to solo work, and as a conductor I love the interaction between the ensemble and the conductor. The special dynamic that it brings to what we do is a constant source of energy and fascination for me.

MCM: What music other than "symphonic" or "classical" are you especially interested in, and why?

EJ: Jazz music or rock music up until 1990. I find much of what is played on the radio today as "pop" or "rock" to be utterly vacuous - the performers did not even write their own lyrics or their own music, and they are sampling someone else's guitar riff or something - usually from that time in the 1970's or 1980's when hard rock music had melody (Queen, Van Halen, etc.). I find much of the current pop music unlistenable for that very reason. Jazz, of course, is an art form all its own, and is a lot of fun to play and to direct as a conductor. Jazz is one of those musical styles where the more you know about the style, the more you like it. Of course, for many people who know nothing about jazz, they like it less.

MCM: What is on your iPod or CD Player?

EJ: Van Halen, Queen, Led Zepplin, Dave Matthews Band, Bela Fleck, Miles Davis (Sketches of Spain album is a must have for every musician), Charles Mingus, John Coltrane. Unless I'm listening to wind band music - I have a collection of over 2500 CDs of wind band music.

MCM: Things sometimes go wrong at concerts. Can you share an interesting or amusing "something gone wrong"?

EJ: For one that involves me personally, I remember a time when I was still an undergraduate and we were at the dress rehearsal for a concert. I think we were doing the 1st, 4th, and 5th movements of something and the 5th movement was the slow movement. So at the dress the conductor told us to be ready to perform the movements in the order 1/5/4 so we would end on a fast movement rather than a slow. At the concert we finished the 1st movement and all of us percussionists continued to sit quietly in the back as the 5th movement was next and involved no percussion - all of us that is except for the young lady playing cymbals. She got up and walked to the cymbals. None of us noticed right away - well, the 4th movement if it HAD been next, began with an ff cymbal crash, and so this girl picks up the cymbals and WHAM!!!!! Plays the loudest solo cymbal crash ever to start a slow and lyrical movement. We all forgot to tell her about the switch - she had missed the dress rehearsal. The conductor, to his everlasting credit, did not stop and kept right on going with the slow movement. He was, however, turning purple - not from anger but rather from trying to hold back his laughter, as we all were as well. The young lady, to her credit, stood there holding the cymbals high in the air, letting the sound die away, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, and the composer had written his slow movement that way. Needless to say, the rest of us percussionists got an earful from that cymbal player after the concert, for forgetting to tell her about that change.

Questions 6 to 10 are next week.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Concert Series - The Racine Concert Band

Sunday July 11 is the first in a series of Sunday evening concerts presented by the Racine Concert Band under the direction of Mark Eichner. Concerts begin at 7:30 in July and at 7:00 in August. All concerts will be at the amphitheater on the grounds of the Racine Zoo on Main Street. While the Zoo does charge admission during the normal hours, admission to only the concert is free (starting at about 30 minutes before the concert).

The Racine Band has a long history of free concerts and quality performances. They were a key part of the centennial celebration for the City of Racine, and they were awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation. And, as a person who has seen many performances by the group, they are very enjoyable.

This Sunday's performance (the 11th) includes a trumpet solo by the Director Mark Eichner, a clarinet duet, and the ever popular Light Cavalry Overture. And, of course, every concert ends with a march by John Phillip Sousa.

So, for the rest of the summer, you have another option instead of reruns on TV or housework. Enjoy the summer concert series by the Racine Concert Band.

UPDATE July 12: Here is a list of the guests that will perform with the Racine Concert Band this summer:

July 18 - Greg Berg from WGDT radio will sing an aria from The Marriage of Figaro as well as some popular songs.

July 25 - Featuring a saxophone quartet and an oboe soloist

August 1 - The annual children's concert featuring Michael Snider narrating Casey At the Bat

August 8 - Featuring flute and alto sax soloists

August 15 - Mezzo soprano Allison Hull from UW-Parkside will sing some Gershwin standards

August 22 - Will feature the music of the Big Bands

August 29 - Soprano Aimee Miller will sing a number of selections and another saxophone feature

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

Community Bands everywhere are busy today and tomorrow. Be sure to enjoy the parades and concerts in and around your area. What a great way to celebrate our independence by attending a concert in the park performed by your friends and neighbors!

For those of you near Greenfield, you may want to take in their 4th of July Parade. Their parade line up includes the Wisconsin Badger Band. While it's not the entire group, the Badgers will be there with the best pep band music in the world. And to top it off, at the end of the parade in Konkel Park, about 1:30, the Badgers will perform the famous 5th Quarter. So join in the fun, clap along, and maybe even do the Chicken Dance!

For those of you in and around Racine, the Racine Concert Band begins their summer concert series on the 4th. More information on that series soon.