I remember my first Midwest Clinic as if it were yesterday. As a young undergraduate student at University of Illinois in 1973, I learned that the United States Air Force Band would be performing. A few years earlier, as a high school student in East Tennessee, some of my band buddies and I skipped school one afternoon (still not sure my mother, age 94, knows about this) to hear a matinee performance of this band in a neighboring city. Colonel Arnald Gabriel conducted and Lawrence Odom was harp soloist in a concert that changed my life. I was motivated to get from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago to hear that band again; I didn’t yet know anything about the magic of the Midwest Clinic. A heavy snowstorm stranded us in the train station for hours on the way back and we got back to the university around 3:00 a.m. the Sunday after the clinic.
When I began my teaching career a few years later at York High School in suburban Elmhurst, Illinois, Rick Blatti and I inherited the task of organizing the music for what was a popular annual directors reading band at the Midwest Clinic in those days. All the music would arrive at York, and we would build the folders and cart them downtown for the session. I remember a dinner at the old Haymarket restaurant in the Hilton before it was renovated – in awe to be sitting at a table with such luminaries as Paul Yoder and Neil Kjos.
Many will remember that in 1984 the Hilton was under renovation, and the event moved to the Hyatt up by the Wrigley building for one year. John Paynter walked the halls with his inimitable classic wit and assured everyone that the clinic was running as smoothly as ever; to hear him you wouldn’t have realized the location had changed.
I don’t think I’ve missed a year since those early days, and what a treat it always is. Bringing my Wheaton (Illinois) Municipal Band to perform in 2012 was also a special occasion I’ll never forget.
Director of Bands
Bowling Green State University
It is difficult to name one greatest memory. There are so many memories of iconic conductors and music educators in the lobby of the Hilton. All of these were approachable and extremely willing to engage in conversation about this great art form of instrumental music. I remember conducting the Spring High School Band in 1980 in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton with a finale number featuring an antiphonal brass group in the balcony that surrounds that wonderful room. W. Francis McBeth was one of the guest conductors that afternoon, and Clare Grundman came on stage to say how much he enjoyed the concert but did not want to be introduced as he felt it would be a distraction. What a wonderful, humble man. John Whitwell’s Huron High School Band and Thomas Fraschillo’s high school band from Mississippi also performed in 1980.
I remember Colonel Eugene Allen coming up to me in the international ballroom to inform me I had been selected as a member of the Board of Directors of The Midwest Clinic and how in awe I was at the first Board meeting, at which John Paynter presided and Barbara Buehlman was Executive Administrator.
I remember the wonderful bands from Japan I have been privileged to conduct, the thrill of conducting the Battle Hymn of the Republic with the United States Army Field Band in 2015, and all of the other bands that have honored me by inviting me to conduct.
I did not start in band until my sophomore year in high school because there was no band program in my small hometown, and the college I attended had no music building or full-time band director. To come from this to be able to serve this wonderful, fraternal profession has been an indescribable honor and privilege. I truly believe instrumental music is the most important discipline in our schools. It not only complements and supports every other academic discipline, it affords students the many intangibles and life skills they cannot obtain elsewhere. Midwest is magic, and the inspiration and transfer of knowledge continues.
Midwest Board of Directors