Issue: January - March 2010
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by M. Max McKee  Bio


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The WIBC Commission Works

By the time our 5th Western International Band Clinic came along in 1983, we had decided to start a process to commission new works for band from our most outstanding band composers. For that year, we invited John O'Reilly to write a work for junior high and Clare Grundman to compose something for the high school level.

In each case we did not dictate what we wanted except that the work should somehow reflect on the Pacific Northwest and match the young band or high school band criteria. To make this work financially and to make it attractive to directors attending WIBC, we set a $100 price tag on the new work with the understanding that each school could write a purchase order for a set of warmups or other music that we could provide immediately and thereby receive payment. For this, the sponsoring school would later receive an autographed copy of the work 6 months before it came available to the general public. In addition, each sponsor was noted on a list inside the front cover of the conductor score. The money raised allowed us to invite the composer to attend WIBC and, in all cases but one, conduct the world premiere.

OReilly Grundman Chattaw Bencris EricksonF Reed

John O'Reilly created the 3-movement "Northwest Suite and Clare Grundman composed "Northwest Saga."  The Jason Lee Junior High Band from Tacoma, Washington premiered the O'Reilly work under the baton of the composer at the Thunderbird Inn-Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon on the opening day (Friday, November 18, 1983). On the final concert 2 days later, Col. Arnald Gabriel conducted the premiere of  Clare Grundman's "Northwest Saga" with the WIBC Directors' Band. Clare Grundman was in the audience.

For the 1984 convention at Seattle, Washington's Red Lion Inn/Sea-Tac, Jay Chattaway wrote the young band work, which he entitled "Mazama." Frank Bencriscutto composed "Pacific Scene." The "Mazama" premiere was performed by the Oak Harbor Junior High School Band (Washington) conducted by Chattaway on Friday, November 16. Later that same day Frank Bencriscutto conducted the Klamath Union High School Band from Klamath Falls, Oregon for the world premiere of "Pacific Scene."  Once again, the project had more than 100 sponsoring schools and individuals, allowing us to pay all expenses.

For the convention ever-after known to all as the "Big Snow Year," we again hosted WIBC at the Sea-Tac Red Lion. On the day the convention started (Thursday, November 21, 1985), Seattle received nearly two feet of snow that blocked the arrival of most WIBC staff members (who were stranded at the Portland Airport) and many locals who seldom had to drive in that kind of weather. Others, coming from snow climates, drove right in with directors taking over many staff duties until the rest of us (including the Organizing Chairman!) arrived on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, the Curtis Junior High School Band from Tacoma presented the world premiere of Frank Erickson's young band work entitled "Northwest Passage" under the baton of the composer. That evening, the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble  from Vancouver, British Columbia, playing under composer Alfred Reed, premiered "Song of the High Cascades."

As WIBC moved on to other projects and methods of presenting new works at various conventions, all of us fondly remember the very special times we had with O'Reilly, Grundman, Chattaway, Bencriscutto, Erickson and Reed between 1983 and 1985 as well as so many other ways in the years to follow.

                                                         Listen to recordings of all six commissions

Next time: The computer detour



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