ALLIANCE — Tuesday night was a dream come true for the entire AHS Band, including Director Jerrold Heide and Composer/Conductor Dr. Steven Sudduth. At the Performing Arts Center that night, the AHS Band world premiered, “Twin Fountains March”.
“I was very pleased. It’s good to hear the band play quality literature at a quality level and the progressions of how the bands played … it was just a good, rounded program for the high school,” said Sudduth.
Heide also said, “I think they did very well. The kids have been working on this for a long time. You always find little things here and there on our end and we’re always looking for improvement, and there are definitely always things, but the level of musicality in the group has been up a lot this year and a lot of that is individual commitment from the students. That heightened commitment has been shown several times throughout the year and I think this is really just a peak of that at the end of the year.”
Sudduth, down-to-earth and jolly-natured, told the story behind commissioning the piece. “This actually took a long time. This is probably the most work I’ve done on any composition — it’s also one of my shortest compositions I’ve ever done. As I’m continuing to grow as a composer, I’m trying to get more out of it. I spent more time with it trying to do more things that I probably couldn’t have done 10 to 15 years ago.”
The work was originally written in 2006, the Atlantic Side, he told, which is the first part. Even so, it was only the marching band version, not the concert band version, “so it lacked a lot of instrumentation.” It was originally used when “we dedicated the WWII Memorial — every state was involved and we represented the state of North Dakota — to do the dedication parade for that memorial.”
He knew he was only going to do the first part of the “Twin Fountains March.” All marches have trios, so he decided he’ll finish the last half later. “Who knew it would be like 13 years later,” he jabbed.
Heide asked for the march a few years back and took it to Washington D.C. He later asked Sudduth to commission a piece for the AHS Band. The differences between the marching version and the concert version, “They’re literally different compositions,” Sudduth said. The marching version had 13 parts while the concert version had 28 different parts.
Sudduth estimated that it took him over 50 man-hours to finish the project. He took the first 10 hours to finish it, then woke up the next day and scrapped it entirely. The following day, he wrote another trio and felt it was much better. He woke up the next day and trashed that as well; a total of about 20 man-hours by this point.
He realized he needed to tie in some harmonies and started examining his work more closely, “I used similar compositional techniques. When I did that, this trio was done in 10 minutes. To this day, that is the trio I have been looking for… for 13 years.”
The piece is fairly complicated because of how many times the key changes throughout the music, “key” being the note that the piece will be played in. It wasn’t until Thursday last week with the AHS Band that Sudduth finally heard his piece live for the first time, having only heard it through a computer program. He said, “You guys really play this well. I fell in love with it then … You have to hear it live.”
“I was really happy with the result. I was really glad how they played it — they played it really well. I was very excited to finally hear it and not the computerized version. Jerry (Heide) got to hear it first. He got to conduct it and I called him up and asked him, ‘How’s it sound? How’s it sound?’ All he said was, ‘Beautiful.’ When I did the cutoff, I thought ‘Finally it’s done’ and I could send it off to everybody I know. Finally, it’s done.”
He followed up with two students, sophomore Jewelia Taylor and junior Rachel Baker, after interviewing them earlier last week before Sudduth’s arrival.
Both admitted that nothing will ever go perfect in a performance, that there is always something to nitpick, but that there was a very minimal margin for improvement. Taylor said, “It felt really great because it’s the last concert of the year, other than the Jazz Concert (next week), but everything is done and you are basically signing off with a world premiere — there’s nothing better than that.”
In regards to Sudduth, Taylor said, “I had high expectations, but he met higher expectations. He was even better than I thought he would be.” Baker agreed that he exceeded expectations.
Baker told her favorite moment from the particular performance, “There was one part towards the end where I got to introduce this chord before the rest of the band. That was cool because I got to play really loud and got to stick out.”
“My favorite part personally was the trio part into the Pacific theme. It’s basically featured clarinet at the beginning of that. The second and third clarinets play the main melody, but then I get a descant part and it’s legato in contrast to everything that’s going on,” Taylor said. A descant is basically a counter melody, higher in pitch to better hear and legato meaning without breaks between notes.
Baker told last week before attending the master classes from Sudduth that she was looking forward to becoming a music teacher. Her feelings have only grown stronger and affirmed her desire to pursue that career path, “I figured out that it’s what I wanted to do around the middle of this school year. Throughout this second semester, I’ve gotten so many opportunities reassuring me that this is what I’m supposed to do and this is what I want to do. I’m glad to have the opportunity while I’m in high school.”
As for Taylor, she was considering a career in neuroscience, but is considering a performance degree with music. After taking those master classes, “This experience… has made me rethink again what I want to go into because there’s just so many fun things in music. I really thought I made up my mind, but I guess not.”