MOTM November 2018 - Dr. James David

We’re back for another exciting edition of our blog, Musician of the Month!

For the month of November, we are featuring Dr. James David, composer and professor of composition at CSU. Jim has participated with the Wind Symphony for several years, and has been a featured composer several times with works for band alone and for clarinet solo with band. We are delighted to be performing one of his works later this season!

You can find out more about Jim and his published pieces at his website We invite you to explore his oeuvre! Additionally, he has founded a music organization based in Northern Colorado, called Hyperprism, and you can find them on social media with the handle @hyperprism.

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FCWS: To get us started, would you mind telling us who you are, and what you do for the wind symphony, and then tell us a little bit about your music career?

James David: I’m Jim David, and I am the bass trombonist with the Wind Symphony. I played in that capacity for two seasons now – before that I was a substitute trombonist and would come in when necessary but we had an opening and I had a chance to do that and that’s really exciting for me. Outside of that, I am a professor of composition and music theory here at Colorado State University, and I have been a musician for a really long time. I started in the 6thgrade playing trombone. All my family are musicians, my dad was a band director for 40 plus years, and so it’s kind of been something I’ve always been interested in. Especially composition, something I immediately was just fascinated by and it’s something that’s just very much a part of who I am now is making music. It’s really exciting to be able to do that full time.

FCWS: As both a composer and musician – a performing musician – what do you think is the value that community music groups provide to their community? 

James David: I think they provide a lot of things, actually. One, it’s a chance for musicians like myself, who have more than one area of interest, it give us an outlet to play. You know, once you finish college, grad school, that sort of thing, sometimes it’s hard to find opportunities to perform so it’s really great to have that and it’s a very serious ensemble that is interested in playing interesting music. And I think it’s a chance for local people to understand that music is happening all around them and there’s a giant community of musicians all throughout this area in the Northern Front Range. It’s really amazing to me to see the diversity of the audience that we get at each concert, and such a tremendous opportunity for me to have not only the chance to perform but also have my music played by the wind symphony and for such a different type of audience, where most of my music gets played at colleges and that sort of academic environment.

FCWS: We’re going to talk a little more about featuring composers, and contemporary composers, but before we do that I’d like to address that you have founded your own music organization called Hyperprism, is that right?

James David: Yes.

FCWS: Could you tell us what is the mission and goal of Hyperprism in Northern Colorado?

James David: Hyperprism is a group that I wanted to start because I felt like there were some types of music that I just really was passionate about and there wasn’t a great outlet for me to do it within the sort of university community. And one of those big things is chamber music, and particularly chamber music for winds and percussion. Chamber music is very much concentrated with music for strings and piano. And that’s great repertoire, I love all of that music and I love writing for those instruments but at the same time, being a trombonist, it’s just so gratifying to get the chance to play chamber music from time to time. So that was one of the big goals of it, of Hyperprism, is to create that. Another big goal was to feature composers from Colorado and from the rest of the country that might be looking for more opportunities to have their music performed, and to expose them to a wider audience. So that’s a big passion of ours, is to premiere as much new music as we possibly can each year. It’s a chance for me to also provide an outlet for some of my former students to have a group to compose for and interact with on a professional level. And third, I feel like Fort Collins is a community that is very open to new types of experiences, particularly when it comes to music, and I think so far we’ve had really great response and we’ve given four concerts in the past year in Fort Collins and Loveland, and it’s really great to see such enthusiasm for new music. Especially when it hasn’t been a big part of the culture here before then. Yeah, Hyperprism is something I am very excited about and I hope that some of the audience members from FCWS will want to come there, but also some of our members of the FCWS will perform with this group. Actually, we already have a couple, but we hope to have even more of them over the years.

FCWS: That’s some good promotional material right there! So I’m going to focus on the idea of new music, which you emphasized with Hyperprism. Why do you think it’s important to feature and promote new music in such an organization? 

James David: Well, I think new music is something that is alive and it’s something that potentially can open a whole new range of experience for people as to what their idea of music can be. New music, or contemporary music, is something that a lot of people have bad associations with; there’s the whole legacy of twentieth century modernism where we wrote a lot of atonal music that’s kind of unpleasant sounding to most people. And I think the thing about the current definition of new music is really whatever the composer wants it to be, and you see a really wide variety of music being composed now. It continues to diversify – we continue to see more and more interesting types of new music every single year. So I think hopefully the kinds of music we’ll be performing and promoting will be, again, things that open the audience to new expectations about the definition of music.

FCWS: So new music isn’t just avant-garde, academic types of music. It’s really more than just that.

James David: Right, absolutely. And I think younger composers, people who are my age and even younger, are much more open about the types of influences that they have and are much more willing to combine different kinds of music. A lot of my music is heavily influenced by jazz, but in recent years it’s been more influenced by electronic music and rock music, and also traditional romantic and classical music as well. So I don’t think it’s easy to pigeon-hole new music as one experience anymore. 

FCWS: You mentioned a little bit about influences on your compositional style, so can you tell us a little bit about what your process of composition looks like?

James David: Well, it doesn’t look like much, necessarily. A lot of it is me just sitting with a strained face and sort of being angry at my computer. It starts – there’s a lot of pre-planning involved, one level kind of brain storming a little bit. It helps me a lot to know exactly what kind of piece and who it’s going to be composed for. Most of my music is written on commission – I’d say 98% of it – and so then there’s a specific audience in mind and also specific performers and conductors involved. So that will help guide me a little bit of what the future direction of the piece will end up being. I usually go through maybe two months or so of just thinking about a piece before I ever commit any actual notes to paper. And then I’ll spend a week or so kind of planning things out, making this whole horrible chicken scratch that no one can understand but me. And I’ll bang on a piano for a while to try to figure out some actual pitches and that sort of thing. And then I eventually end up finally going to the computer and doing everything there. I do pretty much everything on the computer now because that’s just the expectation to produce absolutely perfect beautiful scores and parts. It just saves me time to go ahead and compose directly at the computer. So, yeah, music and technology are very much linked together now. Most of my time is still in front of a screen. 

FCWS: Fascinating. So the days of sitting and making an original paper manuscript are more or less over? 

James David: I think so, because most of the composers are expected to be their own editors and their own publishers to a large degree too. The digital world has really changed the whole way the music business works in so many ways, but in particular composition, and desktop publishing has really changed that expectation.

FCWS: Was that something that you anticipated as you were developing as a composer?

James David: Well, I’m not quite that old. I was using computers basically when I started. But I initially wrote pretty extensively by hand just because I didn’t own a really good laptop or have that ability to compose on the fly. I was dependent on my school’s computer lab to be able to do anything. For the first twelve or thirteen years, I wrote everything by hand, and would then transfer it to the computer after the fact. Since I’ve been out of grad school I’ve been pretty much had to do everything directly to the computer.

FCWS: Now, thinking about composition as a whole: as a career, as a path for individuals to take, what would you say is the biggest misconception that you’ve seen students grapple with or that you’ve grappled with yourself?

James David: Well I think the biggest misconception among just average people, and even a lot of musicians who are not composers, is that it is not divine inspiration. It is not this incredible gift that every single composer has. It’s like every other aspect of music. You have to practice it, you have to work on it regularly to become skilled at it. It’s very much, I’d say, 95% skill based and 5% creativity or talent or however you want to put it. I think most people who are trained musicians have the ability to be composers in some capacity if they just try it and practice it in the same way that they would practice their instrument. That’s the biggest misconception that I encounter all the time. People always ask me “How do you come up with such amazing ideas?”. Well I, really don’t. I just spent a whole lot of time studying other people’s music and then try to find a way to translate some of those ideas into my own music. It’s just a very long, slow process.

FCWS: For the, let’s say, the young audience member who might be thinking that music is a viable career and that they want to dabble in composition, or start learning it, what would be your advice for them?

James David: The biggest advice is just to try it. Just see if you can figure it out. That’s exactly how I started, that’s how every composer I know started. They just attempted it with no warning whatsoever. They just tried to see if they could figure something out. My very first piece I tried to write, I took a band piece that we were playing in my 6thgrade band and tried to take the melody from that and rearrange it and then write like a variation on it. And it was, of course, horrifyingly bad but it got me interested. My middle school band director was nice enough to actually read the piece with the band and take time out to do that, and that was enough to get me hooked from that point forward. And I’m still writing music for band 25 years later. It really is just that simple to me, you just have to try it, and then just stick with it.

FCWS: We will wrap things up with this question, from the perspective of a contemporary composer, what does the future of classical music look like?

James David: I think it’s going to continue to evolve, that’s an easy answer, but I think we’ve seen a lot of the experimentalism of the past few decades, maybe from the 1950s through the 1980s, that’s starting to settle out a bit. There’s less need to try to push the boundaries of music because we’ve kind of already explored that to a degree. I think the integration of music and technology is going to be something that is continually evolving over the next few years. I think that there is already some changes that are happening there that are interesting. And I think we’re going to continue to see different types of institutions become important. I think the days of the major symphony orchestras, the major opera companies, being the dominant institutions of music, I think those days are largely over. And I think they’re going to continue – it’s not that they’re going to completely die out, it’s just that they’re not going to have the same relevance that they once had. This is one of the main reasons I compose for band and that I am a big fan of the band community. They are extremely supportive of new music and particularly a lot of the college band directors that I know that I get to work it on a regular basis, they just are hungry for new music. Every single year they want new music and want it to be more interesting and more engaging and more difficult and more exciting for their audiences. I think the wind band is really where it’s at if you want to write exciting symphonic music and have a wide audience that is interested in supporting that, as opposed to the orchestra where they are kind of scraping along just to survive these days, and they don’t’ have as much time to devote to exposing new music to their audience. I really feel groups like the FCWS and university bands and professional bands are going to continue to grow in their importance to composers, and in particular composers of new music.

MOTM October 2018 - Mr. Scott Schlup

Welcome back to the Fort Collins Wind Symphony Blog, Musician of the Month!

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We are excited to continue our celebration of classical music and the FCWS with an interview with one of our fine musicians, Mr. Scott Schlup! Mr. Schlup has, amazingly, provided 27 years of service and performance with the FCWS, dating back to the inception of the FCWS in 1991.

Mr. Schlup is an incredible educator for the Northern Colorado region, and in addition to his time with the FCWS he teaches at Rocky Mountain High School and is the musical director of the Loveland Concert Band. His biography can be found at

To celebrate his contribution to the organization, we interviewed Mr. Scott Schlup to find out more about him and the history of the FCWS.

FCWS: In your words, please tell us who you are and the role you play in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony.

Schlup: My name is Scott Schlup, and I’m one of the trumpet players, one of the founding members, and was president for quite a few years. 

FCWS: Yes, that’s right! And for the audience who didn’t know that you were a founding member - you *are* one of the founding members! And that was back in 1991, I believe. That was in the inaugural year. What led you to create this ensemble? Why make the Fort Collins Wind Symphony?

Schlup: I was approached by Cindy Harraway and Jana Thomas about forming a group that really would honor the wind band literature. A lot of the community bands can’t approach some of the harder literature, and so from a performer stand point, at that point in my time, I thought it was intriguing and really wanted to continue my playing. And so that’s where it started for me.

FCWS: And you’ve been with it the entire time, right? There hasn’t been a time where you left a little bit?

Schlup: I missed one concert in my career.

FCWS: Wow! That is actually quite impressive, since 1991. So over those 27 years, how has the Fort Collins Wind Symphony impacted the Northern Colorado community?

Schlup: So I think the impact on it has been mostly in the education field. As a teacher it’s one of the goals that I brought to the Board, was getting students to be involved. And so when the organization started we were charging for tickets and some kids couldn’t get to concerts so we eliminated charging for tickets and wanted it to be a place where kids could come and find a hero in their musical world. We invite students to come to rehearsals and sit by players to find out what it’s like to be a professional musician, and so that’s really the impact that I’ve seen. But we’ve also played at a national concert band festival so we’ve brought some notoriety to Fort Collins and the quality that we’re able to do here as well.

FCWS: Are a lot of your students – do they come to the concerts?

Schlup: Yeah, I have a lot of my students from Rocky who come and this year we’re going to have a lot more coming into rehearsals. 

FCWS: Yeah, I remember when I was with Mark Bretting at Blevins, and I came to a couple of those rehearsals and those were really cool to see. Now we’re going to step away for a tiny bit, because you don’t only participate in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony, but you also have a lot of other musical gigs, some of them being in Loveland! So why don’t I ask you about the Loveland Concert Band and your role in that organization, and how participation in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony and the Loveland Concert Band complement each other.

Schlup: Before I got to Loveland, I was in the Northern Colorado Concert Band and I was a musical director there, and what’s interesting about all the community bands is they all have a different take on what it is, and a different clientele that come. And so the Loveland Concert Band for me is just a fun outlet for adults to come and play. They want to continue the fun that they had in an ensemble and so as the musical director there I just get to conduct a lot of fun musicians doing a lot of fun music. That’s a little different in terms of what we do with the Wind Symphony which is a little more focused in terms of trying to get to the highest level that we can, and bring the highest level of music that we can. I think they complement each other a lot, I think they both have a great place in our community, and for me as an educator, I want our students to know that when they leave high school if they choose not to go into music, there is still a place for them to play. They just have to find the right group.

FCWS: That’s right, finding the right group – that’s important! Especially for students who may not choose a professional route with music. As a music educator, your influence is significant both with the Wind Symphony and the Loveland Concert Band, as well as what you do at Rocky Mountain High School. You’ve been there how many years?

Schlup: I think 12 or 13. I don’t know, they just fly by! 

FCWS: And you were at Lesher beforehand?

Schlup: That’s right.

FCWS: So you’ve quite an influence over Fort Collins/Northern Colorado music education. What’s the importance of music education in student’s lives? 

Schlup: So, for me, the music classes work on both sides of the brain. It forces students to perform real time problem solving and self-analysis, while also requiring the brain to be creative and interpret the creative input from their peers and their directors. I think it teaches teamwork, dedication, self-improvement, and perseverance, and all of those are the skills that every college and employer is looking for. 

FCWS: So I assume you’d say that the arts still have a very vital place in all education?

Schlup: I believe that whole heartedly.

FCWS: Do you have any advice for any young musicians in the audience?

Schlup: Boy, just keep listening! That’s where you really learn it. If you think about how we learned how to speak, it was by imitating sounds that our parents made. And so, you know, to become a great trumpet player you just have to find a great trumpet sound and emulate that. It’s just all listening.

FCWS: So this next one is a bit of an abstract question, moving away from all this fun stuff. What is the value of classical music in our society? Is it still relevant?

Schlup: I believe classical music is alive and well. What has changed it there are a lot more avenues to get the classical music. The National Endowment for the Arts did a survey back in 1982 and repeated it 30 years later and they found that the number of adults going to concerts – classical concerts – only dropped 2.8%, which [after] 30 years and the whole gloom and doom of “no more audiences for classical music” doesn’t really work. You look at it and you say “Well, we dropped 2.8%” but the now the Metropolitan Opera is showing full HD productions in movie theaters around the nation. So those people are going to a performance, it’s just not the live version of the performance. Or, you know, I watch the Berlin Phil – I can watch their entire season – at home on my TV. I think classical music is alive and well, [and] I think it continues to show the history we have lived and the importance of our culture.

FCWS: Okay, last question, and back to the Fort Collins Wind Symphony and classical music in Northern Colorado. What does the future hold for classical music and the FCWS in this region?

Schlup: I can’t imagine a time when we’re not going to exist. It’s so fun to see that our audience is standing room only at our concerts, so the idea of classical music is alive and well in Fort Collins. I think we’re a big part of that, and I think that the education end that we’re currently pursuing is great and that whole direction of the board is just a wonderful representation of what we’re going to see in the future. 

MOTM September 2018 - Dr. Richard Mayne

Welcome to the Fort Collins Wind Symphony Blog, Musician of the Month!

In our inaugural post, we are pleased to feature Dr. Richard Mayne as our September 2018 Musician of the Month! Dr. Richard Mayne has provided many great years of service to the FCWS and has developed the organization into Northern Colorado’s premiere wind ensemble! 

In addition to his work with the FCWS, Dr. Mayne serves as the Associate Director of Bands at University of Northern Colorado, where he specializes in music education and wind band performance. Full details of his biography can be found at

To celebrate his contribution to the organization, we interviewed Dr. Richard Mayne to share his thoughts and vision for the FCWS.

FCWS: “What is your role in the symphony, in your own words?”

R Mayne: “Well, my role is to select good music that I think will connect with the audience. And to me, the audience is very important, so I’m always thinking about ‘Why are people going to want to come to this concert?’ and, ‘Are they going to enjoy it enough to want to come back?’. Especially for a community group, it’s really important to have an audience to play for.”

FCWS: “So you didn’t include the term ‘conductor’, or ‘artistic director’ or ‘musical director’, though I’m sure most of the members would describe you as that. Why did you choose to not include that in your response?”

R Mayne: “Well, I don’t know, I guess because I just assume that is part of what I do. But the reason why I do it is to get people back and build a community. So, yeah, conducting is a big part of it, but it’s not the whole thing. And I’ve done it for so long that I sort of take it for granted. I’m not out there to be the Maestro of the group and have the attention there, the whole purpose is for me to build an audience and community and have something that Fort Collins is proud of and all our members are proud of, that kind of thing.”

FCWS: “With that in mind, what sort of value does the Fort Collins Wind Symphony have for the community?”

R Mayne: “Well, that’s a good question! And, I’m not sure you can always answer that; however, when you step outside the auditorium before a concert and see a line of several hundred people and then the auditorium is full and then there’s still two or three hundred people trying to get in, that definitely says something. And it’s hard for me to articulate exactly why that’s important, but it obviously is. People want to be entertained and they want to connect through music which, as the performer Sting says, ‘Music has its own rewards’. It’s a hard thing for me to articulate in words because I don’t really know, I just know it’s true.”

FCWS: “So, we’re not a pop organization. I think we’re more of a classical wind band organization. You still think that classical music is important for people today, of all ages?”

R Mayne: “Yeah I do. Just like classical literature, classical art, classical painting, it can tell a story of history, it can connect people from different generations, from different cultures. Of course, so can current pop music. But, one is not better than the other, they are just all encompassing. And all of the stuff that we play is classical band repertoire that has stood the test of time. We do some new pieces but we play a lot of pieces that have been around for a long time.”

FCWS: “So when you prepare for a new season, or as you’re planning the repertoire for a concert, how do you balance some of the old standards for wind band versus new music?”

R Mayne: “Well, I have a hard time describing how I program, but, I’m always trying to take people on a musical journey. I’m not one that’s real big on theme concerts, because theme concerts, to me, limit what you can do, and with music you can take people on a journey so quickly and change styles so quickly and if it’s a good piece they’ll go right with you…Of course, we ask for recommendations and anytime I get a recommendation I look at it very carefully to see if it fits in the contour of the program and also if the band is going to be successful playing it. There are some pieces that for a variety of reasons may not be the best piece for the ensemble, and that’s one of the things that is my job as well, is to make [the] decision ‘Yes, we are going to be very successful with this piece’ or ‘No, we’re not’ for a lot of reasons. You may not have the right instrumentation. If a particular piece calls for a virtuoso pianist and you don’t have a virtuoso pianist then you stay away from it. But, I just like a lot of variety.”

FCWS: “Now, without taking up too much of your time, we’ll wrap it up with one final question. What should the audience be excited for this season?”

R Mayne: “I think they should be excited for everything. And they should be excited for every concert because they’re all different – every concert is going to be different. I just think every concert is going to have some really good pieces on it. Our holiday concert is going to be lighter and we’ve got some new things that I found for that concert. I actually commissioned a piece to be rearranged for the Fort Collins Wind Symphony that I heard so we’ll have that on the holiday concert. We’re going to do a piece by a former Fort Collins student, Chris Pilsner, who was at Rocky Mountain High School. We’re going to feature Shilo Stroman, a Fort Collins percussionist, and the trombone professor at UNC. So, everything!”