Maslanka Weekly: Best of the Web – No. 35, David Maslanka – The Composition Teacher

Maslanka Weekly highlights excellent performances of David Maslanka’s music from around the web.

Many people know that David Maslanka worked as a freelance composer in Missoula, Montana from 1990 until his death in 2017. During this twenty-seven year period he would go on to write some of the greatest works for winds in the repertoire today. What many people may not know is that while he was not a formal composition professor during these years, he often had pupils in his Montana home eager for composition lessons. Not only would David not charge a dime for these lessons, he literally welcomed each and every person into his family – lodging them, feeding them, and hiking the Montana wilderness with them among other things.

This week, we take a look at three of the many pupils David worked with over the years as well as one of their compositions: Symphony No. 3, “For David” by Kimberly K. Archer, This is Our Joyful Hour by Kevin Krumenauer, and Heroes from the Sea by Onsby C. Rose.

Kimberly K. Archer – Symphony No. 3, “For David”

From the program notes to Symphony No. 3, “For David” by Chris Werner:

It all began on the couch in the summer of 2006, at what we affectionately call “Camp David,” or “The Summer Retreat for Stressed Composers and Conductors.” Kim had just completed her first year of teaching at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and I had finished my first year at Central High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We were both exhausted in every sense of the word, and looking to David for guidance and rejuvenation. I drove to Missoula, MT, and spent a week on David’s couch; Kim flew in from St. Louis and took the guest room.

Our meeting was a coincidence, inasmuch as anything involving David can ever be called that. When we arrived, she had not heard of me or of the Central Wind Ensemble, and I had never programmed any of her music. But you know, when you share a bathroom with a complete stranger for a week … well, you get to know one another.

During that week, David put us on his version of a vegetarian diet, which meant we also had no contact with wheat, and certainly not with caffeine. To this day, we both crave spelt flour and mineral water & apple juice cocktails. We each had lessons with David, and many long, mountainous hikes. Kim and I took an extended trip to Glacier National Park, and frequented the local Missoula coffee shops (we had to have a caffeine fix), where we’d spend hours composing, studying, and talking. We both practiced breathing and attended a Buddhist Walking Meditation and Tea Ceremony with David and Alison. We also met the rest of the Maslanka family of “critters,” one of whom – Agnes, the 21-year-old cat – was upset that I took over her home on the couch!

The three of us listened to and shared thoughts on music frequently. One evening we listened to David’s “Black Dog Songs,” a song cycle for baritone and piano. It was an electric musical moment: one of those you don’t EVER forget. The music affected everyone in the room, and especially Kim, who was sitting next to me on the couch. I was taken by the whole event, perhaps because at the time, I don’t think I “got it.” However, it was at that point I knew Kim was the composer to commission for our first consortium, in a series, from the La Crosse High Schools. She did “get it.” And to this day, we still talk about that powerful night.

Since Camp David, Kim and I have shared hundreds of phone calls and e-mails. We speak frequently about our respective professions and views on music, composing, conducting, life, Battlestar Galactica, cooking, you name it. Our meeting and our friendship certainly don’t seem coincidental anymore.

The commission for Symphony no. 3 or “the piece,” as we called it for a long time, was designed as the most open-ended commission our consortium could allow. No instrumental specifications, no time restraints, not much limit on difficulty. The commission could have easily resulted in anything from a 2-minute fanfare to an hour-long concerto. We started talking about “the piece” in the fall of 2006, and Kim made a special visit to La Crosse in early 2007 to see and hear the Central Wind Ensemble, and to meet the students. It’s been fascinating to observe a composer’s process, and to watch the music gradually take shape over the course of a year.

Kim asked early on if “the piece” could be dedicated to David. For as much as David has meant to all of us involved in the genesis of Symphony no. 3 – and for as deeply as Kim and I cherish his mentorship, his music, his friendship, and his freakish Scrabble-playing prowess – my answer was an immediate and resounding “absolutely!” As David later wrote to Kim (albeit not knowing yet that the work is dedicated to him), “Your symphony already has me in it in a big way.” Yes, that’s absolutely true, and we knew it before she’d put the first note on paper.

Someday soon, I will return to Missoula, have a spelt flour scone, sneak out for coffee, and crash on the couch after a long day. I do hope Kim will be there, and this time, we’ll sit on that couch and listen to Symphony no. 3 with our friend David.

Watch below as Stephen K. Steele leads the Illinois State University Wind Symphony in a magnificent performance of this music.

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Kevin Krumenauer – This is Our Joyful Hour

From the program notes to This is Our Joyful Hour:

We cannot control everything that happens to us.

Life is a mixture of the good and the bad, the beautiful and the painful, the tragic and the life-giving all in one, it cannot be separated and we do not get to choose. We must never forget that we have the power to create, that no matter what storms may be raging around us we always have the power to choose the good and that by making that choice we choose to create, to make the world more of what it was intended to be.

This music grew out of a desire to make the choice for the good in the face of a very bad personal situation and the belief that when we come together as performer and as listener we actively participate in the recreation of that good. The title references the fact that we, here and now, can make that choice. I hope that it brings strength to every performer and listener.

Watch below as Scott Hagen leads the University of Utah Wind Ensemble in a spectacular performance of this work.

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Onsby C. Rose – Heroes from the Sea

From the program notes to Heroes from the Sea:

In June of 2017 as I had a conversation with my wife, Jessi, I told her that I had always had the dream of composing. However, at forty-two years old and about thirty of them being a musician, I had never been able to complete a piece. A couple days after our conversation I received an email about the annual call for fanfares from the Dallas Wind Symphony. As I lay in bed that same evening, numerous melodies ran through my head. After laying awake all night, I got up the next morning, sat down at my computer and began to sketch out a fanfare, Die Helden which was submitted to the DWS. Upon begining to write, I truly felt inspired, but I mostly just desired to finish the work.

As I rely heavily on my Christian faith, each night as I closed out my writing for the day, I would lay in my bed and pray. During my prayers, I would ask God that if He wanted me to compose this music, that He would “give me the notes.” In my conversations with my friend David Maslanka, he would describe his methods and how he relied on his spirituality and meditation. With guidance from David I have been meditating, which for me is a prayer time. This prayer time and soul searching led to the thoughts of my 11 years of active duty as a US Marine, as well as all of the Sailors and Coast Guardsmen that I had served alongside. The images of the men and women in these three services and their dedication to duty, as well as their time away from loved ones, brought to me the heroic and flowing melodies within this work. After finishing the original brass and percussion fanfare, I knew it had to be composed for full wind band. The sound of the work is simple, heroic, and hopefully brings thoughts of the blessings of protection we are lucky to receive from all of the men and women in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard that serve as, “Heroes from the Sea.”

Watch below as Warrant Officer Mark Pellon leads the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band in a triumphant performance of this music.

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We would love to hear from you! If you know of any outstanding performances of David Maslanka’s music on the web, please email us at

By |2019-02-18T18:23:22+00:0018 February 2019|Composing, Featured, Maslanka Weekly|