Howard County Solo & Ensemble

I had such a wonderful time adjudicating woodwind solos and ensembles all day Saturday, April 9th at Ellicott Mills Middle School. What an honor to be included in quite an astonishingly accomplished group of judges for the day!

The level of accomplishment, dedication, and musicianship I heard on Saturday was outstanding, particularly for such young musicians. The music educators and private instructors in Howard County do such an incredible job of preparing students for these performances, which makes my job of adjudicating so much easier.

The true beauty in Saturday, for me, was the incredible dedication shown by all students from a wide variety of schools. There were schools represented from one end of the economic spectrum to the other, and all of the students performed very well. Bravo, Howard County Music, Howard County school administrators, Howard County Public School System, and Howard County parents for supporting your teachers and programs so passionately. It shows!

Demarre McGill, Flutist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

As with the HONY post on a horn player and her search for a new horn, Demarre McGill speaks about his attachment to his Powell flute in this short video from the Dallas Symphony. He also speaks to the difficulty of not only being that struggling musician but also how that struggle affected his parents. Bravo, sir!


Poulenc Sextet for Winds and Piano

I am constantly moved by music, and this piece serves as my current obsession. This performance is nearly flawless and musically mature. Of special interest to me is that the wind players are standing, which is a rare sight in quintet performances, in my experience.

The staging of this ensemble is brilliant, because not only is the piano featured in the middle of the group, but the open piano lid provides a perfect wall for bouncing the horn sound back into the ensemble and, subsequently, the crowd. The intonation is out-of-this-world perfect, which completely blows me away, and the constant eye contact and non-verbal queues are something young ensemble musicians should be required to study.

At times, it seems the clarinetist overpowers the group, which could be a function of the space, but he is quite an accomplished technician. The timbre of the flutist’s low register is so incredibly resonant, warm, and rich, but it seems she abdicates the control of the group to the clarinetist and oboist. That has happened with a number of wind quintets I have played in, too, so this is not a negative point in my book.

I applaud the hornist and bassoonist for standing and playing so precisely. Typically, these instrumentalists play most of their work seated, and these two lovely ladies, quite frankly and without intention of pun, blew me away with their artistry and cooperative styles. They are the standouts in this performance.

The pianist handles himself quite well within the group, and he played more responsively to the wind players than I expected. At times, his playing seemed a bit heavier than is my taste, but he made quite a great addition to this group.

Hope this piece brings joy to my readers as well!