Aurora High School band director Erin Smith recently traveled to Schladming, Austria, to perform on trumpet as a member of the first ever World Adult Wind Orchestra Project (WAWOP). WAWOP was one of two resident ensembles for the Mid Europe International Wind Orchestra Festival, and was formed to commemorate the festival’s 20th anniversary. Mid Europe is one of Europe’s largest festivals for band music and featured performances throughout the week by ensembles from Austria, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland and Taiwan.
WAWOP membership was designed for musicians over the age of 30, and included several university music professors, band directors, military musicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, information technologists and retirees, among other various professionals. WAWOP members hailed from Austria, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Switzerland and the United States. The other resident ensemble, World Youth Wind Orchestra Project (WYWOP), has been a part of the Mid Europe festival since its creation in 1997 and comprised of membership representing nine countries.
Smith arrived in Slovenia on July 6, where she spent a few days touring the small neighbor-country of Austria before taking a train to the Alpine resort town of Schladming on July 9. Once in Schladming, Smith took part in a week of intensive rehearsals and performances. On non-performance days, WAWOP members had up to eight hours of rehearsal and sectionals, and three hours of rehearsal on concert days.
Ensemble members used free time to explore the town and take cable cars up nearby mountains. Smith hiked around the Planai, took a go-kart down the Hochwurzen, and toured an ice cave inside the Dachstein. The Dachstein, at 2700 meters high, still had snow on the ground and temperatures floated around the freezing mark. Smith also took part in a trumpet ensemble that performed the opening fanfare for a gathering that honored one of the significant founding members of Mid Europe.
WAWOP’s first performance was on July 13 in an outdoor concert as part of the Lange Nacht (Long Night) series where concerts went continuously all evening and into the night on five different stages throughout the downtown area. The music selection for this performance was upbeat and often carried a more traditional flare. The traditional works included Austrian favorites “Dem Land Tirol die Treue” and “Radetzky March,” the Czech march “Florentiner,” and the American Sousa march “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Smith, who has performed “Stars and Stripes” multiple times as an Ambassador of Music in Europe, notes that “Stars and Stripes” is as much a favorite among European audiences as it is with American.
Two days later on July 15, WAWOP held a more formal concert indoors at the Schladming Congress. While WAWOP performed some of the same pieces for this concert as Lange Nacht, they removed the traditional marches and added two slower-paced compositions and three works featuring guest soprano and GRAMMY Award-winner Hila Plitmann (“Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute by Mozart, “Goodnight Moon,” by Eric Whitacre, transcribed for winds by WAWOP/WYWOP organizer Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant and “Single” by Jonathan Newman).
Highlights of being a WAWOP member included performing music by renowned living band composers, who attended both rehearsals and performances, as well as working under the baton of great Austrian and American conductors. WAWOP composers in attendance at the festival were Sebastian Schraml (“Wir Sind Helden”), Michael Markowski (“Famishius Fantasticus”), Whitacre (“October” and “Goodnight Moon”), John Mackey (“Ringmaster’s March”), Steven Bryant (“Nothing Gold Can Stay”) and Newman (“Single”).
Conductors for the two WAWOP concerts were Austrian-born Mösenbichler-Bryant of Duke University and her father, Johann Mösenbichler, a coordinator of the Mid Europe Festival; world-renowned American conductors Kevin Sedatole of Michigan State University and Jerry Junkin of University of Texas-Austin; Daniel Tembras of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; Serena Weren of Loyola University; Douglas Henderson of Oklahoma State University and GRAMMY Award-winning music educator Philip Riggs of North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Additionally, WAWOP performed the significant band transcriptions of Leonard Berstein’s Candide Suite and Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture.”
At the close of WAWOP festivities, Smith returned by train to Slovenia, then flew to Paris, Atlanta and Springfield over the course of three days, returning just in time for Aurora’s band camp to begin.
“Performing as a part of WAWOP was an unforgettable experience,” remarked Smith. “I got to work under some of the top band conductors in the world and play music by some of the best band composers in the world, whom I also had the opportunity to interact with for the entire week. Not only is that special for me, personally, but I can also bring back the many musical things I learned from this experience to my students.”
Smith concluded, “I think the biggest thing I want my students to take from the WAWOP concept is that you don’t have to major in music to play as an adult. You can play your instrument at a high level for the rest of your life while being a facial reconstruction surgeon, a nurse practitioner, the dean of a university, an elementary school teacher, a behavioral therapist, a tax lawyer, a computer programmer, a mattress salesperson, anything! The people I performed with in WAWOP were in all of these career fields and more, and they are still playing music.”
The WAWOP performances can be viewed through the following links: https://youtu.be/cyZejvNdN90 (Lange Nacht), https://youtu.be/qMWOhRTolHI (Congress)