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At Home at the Hilton

Editor | December 2009

     With the Midwest Clinic making the move from the Chicago Hilton, an era comes to an end. Memories of this old red brick fortress are plentiful, and while we look forward to this year’s convention, it won’t have the same memories that have built up over decades.

James M. Rohner, Editor
    I remember many exciting concerts in the Hilton Ballroom, particularly the night in 1990 when my grandfather received the Medal of Honor. As part of the concert, the U.S. Air Force Band played the world premiere of a work by Fisher Tull. I was amused that the piece included plastic tubes used to recreate the sound of whooshing air. As the work ended I leaned over and was about to make a sarcastic comment to the person sitting next to me, when he stood to acknowledge the applause from an enthusiastic audience. It was Fisher Tull, and I was glad to have stayed silent.
    Every year I have been pleased to meet most of the composers who wrote music I have played, including the trombone method books by John Kinyon and Himie Voxman. Some individuals at the convention are so famous that they hardly need an ID badge. Alfred Reed always stopped by the booth wearing the badge of some unknown person not named Alfred Reed. For him, the name on the badge was irrelevant. I recall meeting Frederick Fennell during my first Midwest as a high school student. He was tired after a long day of shaking hands and insisted on shaking with his left hand.
    For many years a highlight of the Midwest at the Hilton was the soul and bone-stirring sound of Tuba-Christmas filling the lobby. My guess is that many of the young players didn’t realize at the time the stature of the conductors, including Harvey Phillips, Frederick Fennell, and others. 

Dan Blaufuss, Managing Editor
    I have never been a fan of the crowded Hilton and won’t miss trudging to concerts and clinics through the cold wind or squeezing into a packed hall for a concert at the Hilton. 
    The Midwest for me is a reunion of old friends who often see each other just once a year. It is always fun to catch up with old friends and find out where life has taken them since music school. I had the pleasure of seeing Brian Usher’s Jenkins Middle School jazz band in 2007. At the concert it was mentioned that few middle school jazz programs ever applied to the Midwest. Later I ran into a college friend in the exhibit hall, and he was already making plans for his jazz group to audition next year. 
    One regret I have is that the convention schedule is always so crowded that I miss some great concerts. This year I have blocked out time on Friday morning to see performances by two directors who helped with our annual Midwest preview article – Andy Sealy and the Hebron High School clarinet choir and Travis Downs and the Valdosta Middle School percussion ensemble. I worked with both of them in preparing this issue and am excited to hear their ensembles perform.
Another highlight of the Midwest is meeting authors who come up to our booth to introduce themselves. It is always great to link a real person with the words and pictures that come across my desk, and in many cases a new friendship is struck from these meetings. Every year a new friend comes along with an excellent idea for our pages.
    This year’s convention at McCormick Place West will be different, but the music and the people who make the clinic so special will be the same. See you in Chicago.