A Day with the “Greats”

Even though Purdue doesn’t have a School of Music, there never ceases to be a whole host of opportunities to thrive in the music world. Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to be a part of the ABA Convention in Indianapolis. The ABA (American Bandmaster’s Association) is comprised of nationally-recognized directors, conductors, and composers who are invited to be a part of the association. The Purdue Wind Ensemble was selected to perform at the Wednesday night concert, along with the Ball State Wind Ensemble. And as a clarinet player in this group, I spent the day with several of the members and inductees of the ABA.

Before the convention, we spent our class time practicing eight different compositions so that we’d be prepared for the guest conductors. Eight different directors, all members or inductees into the ABA, worked with us the day of the concert. Our guest conductors included Edward Harris, Denny Stokes, David Holsinger, Steven Moore, Al Wright, Gladys Wright, and our own Jay Gephart (the Director of Bands at Purdue) and Ishbah Cox (Purdue).  This was likely the most musically educated audience we had ever played for – the composers for a few of our pieces were listening! The music we had selected was challenging, but because we’d been working on this music for months, we knew we were set to have a great concert. Although it was intimidating, we put on an amazing concert and showed them what Purdue was capable of – we received many compliments on our hard work!

The most rewarding time of the evening for me was getting to meet Al and Gladys Wright. In the music world, they are heroes. Gladys Wright is a member of the International Women Conductors Hall of Fame, and is the founding president of the Women Band Directors, along with various other honors and awards. Dr. Al Wright, Director of Band Emeritus at Purdue University, is an Honorary Life President of both the National Band Association (which he founded) as well as the ABA. Their list of accomplishments is staggering, but they both value interaction with students. They are still involved in music, even though Al is 95 years old! I got a picture with them, and it was such a great experience to play under them and get to know them.

Being involved in Wind Ensemble at Purdue has been so much fun. I’ve been able to have opportunities like this, but to me, the best part has been the friends I’ve made from being involved. So if you’re interested in music as a Purdue student, consider joining a Purdue band! But whatever your interest, chase it. The memories you’ll make will be worth it.

— Laurel Donaldson – Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

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