School Spotlight: Apple Valley Wind Ensemble

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
March 18, 2014
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — To celebrate students returning to school, Classical MPR is launching School Spotlight. Throughout the school year, on the first Tuesday of each month, an outstanding student music ensemble will be featured on Classical MPR. Through School Spotlight, Classical MPR hopes to share the great music being made in Minnesota schools.

Since September is officially Back to School month at Classical MPR, we will be featuring a new school ensemble every Tuesday for the remainder of the month. Beginning this month's special series is the Apple Valley Wind Ensemble, led by director Corey Desens.

Band students at Apple Valley High School (AVHS) certainly have a wealth of performance opportunities. The high school's extensive variety of ensembles includes three concert bands, two jazz ensembles and several individual instrument ensembles, such as "Heavy Metal", a tuba/euphonium ensemble.

In addition, throughout the year there are a multitude of athletic and theater events that require wind and percussion instrumentalists, and every band student receives five or six individual lessons each trimester from an AVHS band director.

The audio featured today is from a performance by the Wind Ensemble at the February 2013 Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) mid-winter clinic. The pieces performed are David Gillingham's With Heart and Voice and Scott McAllister's More Cowbell! from Popcopy.

The AVHS band ensembles have garnered their fair share of awards and honors. In April 2013, the Jazz Ensemble I received first place out of 60 high schools at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire jazz competition. Additionally, 11 AVHS band students have been selected to be in 2013-14 All-State ensembles — a rare achievement for a high school. Also, in the last five years, graduates of the AVHS band program have been accepted into such prestigious music colleges as Julliard, Curtis, the New England Conservatory, and Berklee.

Corey Desens, director of the Wind Ensemble, takes a comprehensive approach to teaching music. He believes that learning music is more than mastering the correct notes, rhythms and articulations; for each piece of music performed, the students also learn about the composer, why the piece was written, who commissioned the work and any program notes.

A prime example of this method is how Desens approached teaching Michael Gandolfi's Vientos y Tangos to the Wind Ensemble last year. In this piece, three different types of tango music are represented, ranging from the early style of Juan d'Arienzo, to the music of Astor Piazzolla and the current trend of disco/techno tango. Desens brought in two instructors from the Tango Society of Minnesota to teach the students basic tango steps. Desens believed that by observing and attempting various tango styles, the students would gain a better understanding of the musical context of Vientos y Tangos.

In subsequent music rehearsals, Desens was able to draw comparisons between the interpretation of the musical styles and the various tango dances the students had experienced. As Desens pointed out, "Most 21st-century high school students have never experienced how to partner dance or learned the dance roles of leading and following. Learning how to tango dance will be an experience these students will never forget." This unique approach certainly had an impact on the students and on their performance of Vientos y Tangos.


If you are a teacher, student or parent and you know a fantastic Minnesota ensemble that deserves to be heard on Classical MPR, submit a recent recording today! Follow this link for further information.


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