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Opinion

Renowned band conductor works with student musicians

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May 8, 2014

As the school year quickly comes to a close, the UW-River Falls music department is working to squeeze in as many concerts as they can before summer comes.

While few still remain this year, music students and teachers alike can look back fondly on this year and what has been accomplished. Between guest conductors and composers, concert tours and various clinics, many can agree that this year was well worth it. The final May concert for the Symphony Band and University Band was no exception. They welcomed back guest composer Jack Stamp, performing a concert last weekend of his music. From the complex rhythms to the recurring themes, everyone was able to learn a thing or two from his music.

Stamp, originally from Maryland, is currently a professor of music, conductor and head of the music department at University of Indiana-Pennsylvania, which is where UWRF music professor. Gary Bird formerly taught, thus creating a connection. He returned to IUP after doing his undergraduate studies there and receiving a bachelor of sciences degree in music education. He then went on to his graduate studies at East Carolina University, where he earned a master’s degree in percussion performance. Finally, he pursued his doctorate studies at Michigan State University, where he earned a doctor of musical arts degree in conducting.

One of the aspects of his doctorate studies that he will remember most fondly is studying percussion with Eugene Corporon. He owes much of his composition strengths during his college years to his two teachers, Robert Washburn and Fisher Tull. He also acknowledges everything he has learned from his music theory teachers during his years at IUP and East Carolina University.

Stamp has been an active faculty member at IUP for several years now; however, it is not his first teaching job. Before arriving at where he is now, he served on the faculty at Campbell University in North Carolina, where he is the chairman of the division of fine arts. Before that, he taught for several years at various public schools around North Carolina. In addition, Stamp has done more than just teach. From 1988 to 1989, he served as the conductor for the Duke University Wind Symphony while the original conductor was on sabbatical. During this same time, he was also the director of the Triangle British Brass Band, leading them to a national brass band championship in 1989.

Because Stamp has continuously served as guest clinician, conductor, composer and adjudicator around the United States and Great Britain, he is very well-known in the music world. He takes pride in the leading military and university bands of the country commissioning his work. Two things that he is known for in his music are his love for baseball and writing dedications. The University Band performed his piece “Pasttime,” which is a variation of the famous, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Symphony Band performed his pieces “Fireflight” and “Banddancing,” both dedicated to either an individual or a whole group. It was clear to us who he was about as a composer.

What band members also found interesting is that much of his music uses similar rhythms. They are all complex, syncopated rhythms, though seeing them repeatedly made us comfortable playing them. Something unusual for our band is that we were not able to work with Stamp until the day after our concert. While it was good to learn the music well before testing it with the composer, it was also a challenge since we did not know how he might want a certain section played or why he composed a particular piece. Regardless, it was still a great opportunity to work with Stamp and get a closer look at the music.

The year may be almost over, but the memories and accomplishments made throughout the year will not go forgotten as we depart for the summer. The UWRF music department had guest composers and conductors like every other year, but this year was especially unique, bringing in composers who are either quite familiar with the department or who are not even familiar with this country. We have learned valuable lessons in both music and in life with all of them, and we very much look forward to seeing what next year will bring.

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.