After graduating from college in May of 2009, I expected to have many musical opportunities available to me. Teaching, performing and composing were all very attractive options, and I’ve been able to do each of those in at least some capacity in the past year or so. What I did not expect was the chance to perform under the baton of Maestro Leonard Slatkin earlier this month.
It was an unlikely opportunity for several reasons. First, Maestro Slatkin does not frequently work with bands. Also, I’m not anywhere near good enough on the trombone to perform in the Detroit Symphony. This collaboration came about thanks to the first ever Motor City Festival of Bands. Three adult community bands (including the West Michigan Concert Winds, of which I am a part) and two brass bands joined forces to put on a two-hour concert in Dearborn. The grand finale was a mass ensemble consisting of over 300 musicians, directed by Maestro Slatkin.
After 40 minutes or so of rehearsal, and a performance that was over all too quickly, I know that even the best musicians are always expanding their boundaries. The masters are still trying to learn new things about their craft. Maestro Slatkin might work with a band once every five or ten years, but he came into that rehearsal as well-prepared as somebody who teaches band music on a daily basis. That couldn’t have been easy to do for somebody who has been part of the orchestra world for well over 40 years.
I came away from the whole experience very impressed by how Maestro Slatkin handled himself. I was surprised that a big player on the orchestra scene would find time to step out of his comfort zone and work with over 300 musicians from community bands across Michigan. I was surprised at how well he adapted to an unfamiliar world. And last but certainly not least, I was surprised at the quality of the music we produced with strangers after less than an hour of rehearsal.