On Macomb

Teleological tone poem for concert band (2014)

Commissioned by The Wetmore Project to honor retiring director of bands David Wetmore (Macomb High School | Macomb, IL)

Performed by the Macomb High School Wind Symphony
(David Wetmore, cond.)


Program notes:

On Macomb is based on two pre-existing melodies. The first is lifted from a 45-minute narrative symphony titled Ein Heldenleben (“A Hero’s Life,” composed by Richard Strauss). Strauss used this jagged tune to musically represent “the hero’s adversaries”:

Trumpeters are often asked to play this melody in orchestra auditions. The excerpt is uniquely difficult because it demands an “impossible” note – one half-step below the lowest note the instrument can produce in normal circumstances. A player must modify his/her technique momentarily to cheat the trumpet’s built-in limitations and produce the anomalous pitch. It’s a treacherous moment.

Over thirty years ago, that treachery stood between Mr. Wetmore and a position in the prestigious National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. During his audition in the final round, the low note eluded his lips. A different player won the position, and Mr. Wetmore decided to accept his first public school teaching position, leading the band in his hometown of Canfield, OH.

Past and present MHS band members know this story already; Mr. Wetmore often cites it as personal evidence that the little things – as little as a single, slippery note – are also the big things. A life lesson lurks just beneath the surface of any music lesson; for three decades Mr. Wetmore has proved that through words, through notes, and through example.


The second melody featured in this piece is the Macomb Senior High fight song: