The Montclair State University Wind Symphony conducted by Thomas McCauley performed in Prague, Czech Republic, in late July at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) Conference, a festival of symphonic wind music held at the Žofín Palace.
The Wind Symphony is composed of the highest-level wind players and percussionists at both the undergraduate and graduate levels from multiple music programs, including music education, music therapy, performance and composition. Their trip abroad marked the first time any large ensemble from the John J. Cali School of Music has received such a prestigious international invitation.
Students made the most of the experience. “It felt like all of our hard work paid off and we were able to connect with the audience and share our story on an international level,” says Karina Bloom, a flutist and junior Performance major.
The conference celebrated 101 years since the birth of Karel Husa, an influential composer of symphonic wind music in his hometown of Prague, a year later than originally planned as the July conference was postponed in 2021 because of COVID-19. Montclair’s performance was among eight concerts featuring ensembles from around the world.
“We worked tirelessly all year to prepare for the performance and the results were significantly rewarding,” says Amanda Roth, a junior Music Education major and flutist.
But the group hadn’t been together since May, and in the days leading up to the trip, 55 members of the Wind Symphony returned to campus for intense rehearsals. “I’m excited about taking them because quite a few of our students have never been out of New Jersey,” McCauley said at the time. “This is going to be an earth-shattering trip for them and I’m thrilled to be able to do that.”
Roth says the experience was indeed special. “Exploring new cities and experiencing other cultures is an incredible experience alone. Performing music I love with other phenomenal musicians made it more so,” she says.
In Prague, standout moments of the concert included Cali School faculty member and orchestral keyboardist Steven Ryan’s virtuosic solo of Olivier Messiaen’s Colors of the Celestial City and the European premiere of Bruce Yurko’s composition, TMCC Fanfare. Yurko is a former Karel Husa student who composed the piece for McCauley and the Wind Symphony.
The trip also included an evening concert at the renowned MUTH concert hall in Vienna, Austria. “This is the same hall where the Vienna Boys Choir presents many of their concerts, and the space is magnificent,” McCauley says. “The music we presented there was a bit lighter, and our soloist, faculty member and percussion area coordinator, Barry Centanni, playing two ragtime pieces on xylophone was easily one of the major highlights of the evening.” That piece was arranged by Taylor Goodson, the Cali School’s assistant production manager.
“We received a standing ovation and performed an encore,” Roth says.
“You could just feel how delighted the audience was to experience American music,” says Bloom.
And in a fitting coda, McCauley says, “Truly a memorable night.”
See the live-streamed performance in Vienna on the John J. Cali School of Music Facebook page.
A recording of the WASBE concert is available for purchase at www.markrecords.net.
Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren
Photos courtesy of Professor of Music Marissa Silverman, Karina Bloom and Amanda Roth