Marine Corps Band to play Fredonia professor’s music

It is not every day that a local musician’s work enters the national spotlight, but that is exactly what will happen to Dunkirk resident Dr. Rob Deemer.

Deemer, an associate professor of music and the head of music composition at SUNY Fredonia, recently finished a piece of composition for the U.S. Marine Corps Band. The band will premiere the piece, titled “Home,” on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, and at another location in D.C. on Thursday night for an encore.

“I’m extremely excited for this,” Deemer said in a phone interview with the OBSERVER. “I love writing for the wind band; it’s one of my favorite mediums for which to write, and the Marine Band is the most elite military band in all the armed forces with some of the best players on their instruments in the world.”

Deemer equated his composition getting played by the Marine Corps Band to it getting performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the band world.

The music professor explained “Home” features a soloist, Jay Niepoetter, who plays both clarinet and bass clarinet in the piece.

“Jay graduated from Northern Illinois University the year before I started my freshman year there, so that’s where we both did our undergraduate studies,” Deemer said. “He and I have known each other for a long time, and last year, he called me up and asked if he could commission me to write a piece for him to play with the Marine Band; he has been their bass clarinet player for 25 years.”

Deemer pointed out Niepoetter was the one who commissioned him to write the piece (which took about three-and-a-half months), and that the Marine Band agreed to perform it. The band holds an annual summer concert series in which one of the concerts is performed on the Capitol Hill steps.

“Home,” a 10-minute piece, will be rehearsed by the band Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

“It’s actually pretty rare for them to play something new during these concerts since they usually stick to traditional pieces,” Deemer said.

SUNY Fredonia Public Relations Director Michael Barone, on behalf of the college president, said it is an “amazing honor” for both Deemer and the Fredonia campus as a whole to be featured in such a prominent and respectful way.

“To have his piece performed live on the steps of the Capitol is probably every composer’s dream, at least in our country,” he added. “Dr. Deemer is among our foremost campus leaders and he is highly respected among all our staff and students. He is also a major reason why we have such a great team approach in our decision-making across the campus. We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Deemer explained some of the unique qualities “Home” contains.

“Usually you see only one instrument in a solo, but this piece has Jay playing the clarinet, and then he puts that down and plays the bass clarinet and alternates between them,” he said. “When we think of a home, we think of when someone is at home or goes home to where they grew up, and that resounds with folks in the military.”

To make this unique solo work, Deemer juxtaposed an adult (the clarinet) remembering what it was like to be a child, with a child (the bass clarinet) dreaming about what it would be like to be an adult.

“Normally, you think of a clarinet as playing a lot of fast notes and the bass clarinet being slow and lyrical, so I’ve flipped that on its head,” he said.

Deemer has been with SUNY Fredonia for the past seven years. To learn more about him, visit his website, www.robdeemer.com.

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