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Opinion

‘Octuba Fest’ honors music of guest composer

October 17, 2013

Last week was an exciting week for the UW-River Falls Music Department, called “Octuba Fest.”

Four performances last week were dedicated to music of the tuba, specifically the music of in-residence composer and tuba player, Gregory Fritze. Audiences experienced everything from solo works, chamber music, concertos and a simply beautiful chorale.

Getting the opportunity to work with guest composers and soloists is an opportunity that musicians will never forget, as it gives them a fresh perspective on the music they are playing. They strive to apply what they learned from the guest soloist or composer to the remainder of their music career.

Fritze is a native of Pennsylvania and received his Bachelor’s Degree in composition from the Boston Conservatory. While there, he studied composition with John Adams and tuba with Chester Roberts. Upon receiving his Bachelor’s Degree, he then moved on to graduate school at Indiana University Pennsylvania (IUP) and received his Master’s Degree in Composition. At IUP, he studied composition with Thomas Beversdorf, John Eaton and Fred Fox all while studying tuba with the great Harvey Phillips. It was at IUP where he met fellow tuba player Gary Bird, a current UWRF music faculty member.

Upon receiving his Master’s Degree, Fritze went on to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra where he worked his way up to principal tubist. Around the same time, he also started to perform with the Cambridge Symphonic Brass Ensemble and the Colonial Tuba Quartet. He has written numerous compositions for ensembles, including orchestral music, band music, chamber music and solos. SeeSaw Music, Minuteman Music, TUBA Press and Musica Nova have all published his compositions. The UWRF Symphony Band and the UWRF University Band performed four of his compositions last Thursday night. In addition to composing, he has also premiered several pieces for tuba, including John Bavicchi’s “Concerto for Tuba and Band” and Ken Pullig’s “Concerto for Tuba and Jazz Ensemble.

Currently, Fritze is a faculty member at Berklee College of Music and has been since 1979. From 1983 to 1998, he also served as conductor of the Berklee Concert Wind Ensemble. In the same year he showed his love for composing by creating the annual Berklee Student Composition Competition. So far, it has created hundreds of new compositions.

In addition to his position at Berklee, he also guest lectures at several colleges and conventions, including Musicfest Canada, American Band Association and High School Jazz Festivals at Berklee.

Fritze has also been awarded with many honors, some including a Fulbright Scholar to Spain, first place in the International Tuba Euphonium Association (T.U.B.A.) Composition Contest and recipient of a Walt Disney Fellowship.

Last Thursday, Fritze ended his week of recitals and chamber music with a showcase of the UWRF Symphony and University Bands. The Symphony Band played three of his pieces: “Concertino for Tuba and Band”, “Kristinmark Overture” and “An Early Evening Walk”, while University Band played his piece “Kentucky.” “Concertino for Tuba and Band” featured Gary Bird on tuba, a solo that brought the piece to life. Something he did that I have not seen any guest do is sit with both bands to play. He did not conduct or have huge solos; he just sat down and played. It shows what a modest person he is, despite his immense success.

Each week with a guest composer or soloist is an exciting one in the UWRF music department and everyone works together to make the week a success. It is especially exciting to see how passionate these guests are about music and that no matter where they are playing, they are enjoying every minute of it.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.