On higher ground

CHAUTAUQUA – On Saturday, a group of junior high musicians will be playing a piece of music never before performed by any group – professional or amateur. Even more exciting for these students is that this composition was written specifically for them. This work will be premiered at the Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association’s Spring All-County Festival held in the Amphitheater of the Chautauqua Institution.

All-County Junior High Band chairperson, Brian Hornbuckle, stated that this idea was generated by the group’s guest conductor, Phillip Aguglia. Aguglia and composer Fredrick Umar have been friends for some time, and the conductor thought it would be an extra special way to mark the occasion for these young musicians.

“At Phil’s recommendation,” said Hornbuckle, “we made the go-ahead to allow Frederick to write this piece for us.”

CCMTA then commissioned Umar to write the music specifically geared toward for this group of upper level middle school students. The composition is called “Higher Ground” and is an original work based on a traditional Gaelic melody. It will include some non-traditional instrumentation for a wind ensemble, such as violin, cello, harp and bohdran drum.

A student of piano since the age of four, Umar was given the honor of first studying composition with Rudolph R. A. Schramm, notable composer, arranger, and co-founder of the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. He completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in May.

As a composer and arranger, Umar is known for creating complex tonal textures through the use of tonal color (the harmonic sound created when two or more instruments sound together). This gives the wind band an elegant, almost orchestral expression in his works.

The Junior High All County Band is composed of 92 of the best student musicians, grades 7-9, from all 19 of Chautauqua County’s school districts. They will share the evening of music with four other performing ensembles – also made up of superior young music students from around the county. These will include the All County Elementary, Junior and Senior High Choruses, and the All-County Senior High Band. The Concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online at ww.ccmta.net and can also be purchased at the festival Saturday.