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by Kathleen Andersen, Communications Coordinator, The Midwest Clinic

The Midwest Clinic began commissioning works from emerging and established composers in 1996, encouraging them to add excellent new band, jazz, orchestra, and chamber works to the music teacher’s repertoire. We are pleased to report that Kevin Walczyk, resident composer and professor of composition studies at Western Oregon University, has written an original octet in honor of The 64th Annual Conference. The world premiere performance will take place at the conference this December. Walczyk took time out to share his reaction to the commission with the Midwest community, and to describe Danza Provincialis.

Last summer, Walczyk was contacted by Paula Thornton, a member of The Midwest Clinic Board of Directors and co-chair of its Awards and Commissioning Coordinating Committee. She told him he had been selected for the 2010 commission. He was excited at the time, but unfamiliar with The Midwest Clinic’s commissioning project. Already at work on a band commission and looking ahead to more projects in the coming months, he wondered if he could take on yet another. Walczyk “immediately contacted a trusted friend and colleague who is very familiar with The Midwest Clinic and my composing schedule to learn more about this project and if, in his estimation, I would be able to add it to my other commissions. He didn’t answer (at first) with words, but with a chuckle. Sensing my inability to interpret this reaction, he congratulated me and proceeded to give me a pretty detailed history of the most recent commissions. It was only at that moment I realized what an honor was just bestowed upon me. I replied to Paula with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’

“When I visited The Midwest Clinic’s website to gain more information on the commission project, I was quite humbled and began to understand the significance of this project. I gazed upon a short list of some extraordinary names, including Pulitzer prize-winning composers and others whose names and music became familiar to me during my formative years. There was no doubt that a great honor had been placed in front of me, which I could not – and did not – decline.

“What impressed me even more was the commissioning committee’s commitment to new works for young ensembles. As a current university professor and former K-12 instrumental education degree recipient, the emphasis that Midwest places on works that help the process of educating our youth is a mission that I aggressively pursue.”

Walczyk then committed himself to “creating a work that not only satisfies the requirements of the commissioning committee but also upholds the reputation and expectations that The Midwest Clinic Commissions have established while maintaining the educational significance that these works seek to promote.”

He began his work by interviewing band directors to find out what kind of chamber repertoire The Midwest Clinic community wants and needs. “After a great deal of consideration and research, I decided to compose for a chamber ensemble whose instrumentation represents the greater constituency of Midwest Clinic participants. The work is an octet composed for flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, violin, cello, percussion, and piano. In accordance with the wishes of the commissioning committee, the octet is designed at a 3-4 grade level. The single-movement work is in ternary form (A, B, A’) where the A sections take on a quasi-Latin influence and the B section a slow, lyrical treatment of the A-section’s melody. Although the work provides the musical challenges associated with a grade 3-4 level work, I wanted to compose something accessible and fun for performers and audience members alike.”

With the music educator in mind, Walczyk hopes it will prove feasible to offer substitution parts in a future, published edition. This would allow for multiple instrument combinations, serving more schools and their music programs. We look forward to to the exciting premiere of Danza Provincialis this December! To learn more about The Midwest Clinic’s past commissions, please visit The Midwest Clinic Commissions page.

About the Composer
Kevin Walczyk is a native of Portland, Oregon, and received his M.M. and D.M.A. from the University of North Texas. His works have been commissioned and/or recorded by numerous ensembles and organizations, including the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Kiev Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Ukraine National Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Portland Youth Philharmonic, Third Angle Contemporary Music Ensemble, and more. His works have been featured at new music festivals in the United States, Holland, Belgium, Russia, Ukraine, and Peru.

Walczyk’s honors include grants from Meet the Composer, Argosy Foundation, American Music Center, and Western Oregon University. He has earned numerous prizes or finalist status from Chamber Orchestra Kremlin International-blitz Competition, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble’s Harvey Gaul Competition, CBDNA Young Band Composition Contest, Lionel Hampton Creative Composition Contest, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Synergy project.

He has taught at Western Oregon University since 1995.

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