It was a profound and reflective moment for BW professor and composer-in-residence Dr. Clint Needham '04 as he sat at his Steinway to compose. The university had commissioned him to write an original piece in celebration of its 175th anniversary.
His mind wandered to the past as he recalled his first days as a student at BW 21 years ago. The students, professors and the studio rooms where he spent countless hours practicing and composing were etched in his mind as precisely as the strings on the piano itself.
For a composer like Needham, emotion, creativity and strategy are integral to his work — providing a perfect fusion that takes a piece from inspiration to creation. As Needham sat on the piano bench pondering the instrumental music he would compose, he imagined the generations of students who came before him and the others who would follow in his footsteps.
From bold beginnings to a triumphant legacy
As if to mirror the movement of the university itself through time, Needham's fanfare is like a grand opus of history, passion and pride woven into 83 seconds of majesty and thoughtful sequence.
From its energetic and upbeat opening keys to its full crescendo closing, the composition captures BW's illustrious history — from its bold beginnings as an inclusive college in 1845 through its stately progression into a university poised for an exciting and successful future.
With a nod to familiarity, the "Inspiring Light" fanfare includes musical elements from BW's alma mater. They add a rich, sentimental aura to the piece as well as showcase the continuum of pride and tradition that is part of the university's historic and communal narrative.
"From the onset, I wanted to convey elements of boldness, introspection and hope," explained Needham. "BW has a storied history, a progressive present and an optimistic future as an academic and cultural institution.
"It is our collective introspection about who we are and where we are headed as an institution and campus community that gives us hope and joy in being part of something so special and important," he added.
A tribute woven with personal reflection
Needham noted thatBW had originally planned to present a concert that would open with the premiere of the fanfare for orchestra. But COVID-19 required a pivot in the presentation. The idea came to him to present a video performance of brass and percussion that would feature current students, alumni and faculty.*
"Gathering these incredible musicians for a performance like this would not have been possible with an in-person show because they live in New Orleans, Baltimore, Atlanta and Houston, as well as other cities across the U.S. But with technology, we could make it happen," he said.
"A number of people were able to record their solo part on the Gamble stage in BW's Conservatory of Music and others recorded at their homes. Once I received all of the recordings, I assembled the audio and video over three weeks," he recalled.
"I am so impressed with how giving everyone was during this process. It was truly a collaborative effort. I composed the fanfare, but having current students, alumni and faculty involved brought the piece to life. In a way, it is very symbolic of BW itself — supportive, caring and enthusiastic," he remarked.
"Writing this work is quite special," Needham emphasized. "BW has played a major role in my academic, professional and personal life. Not only am I part of this institution's present time as a faculty member, but I am also an alum … my wife is an alum … and hopefully, our three children will become YJ4Ls. Many of my dear friends are BW alums. To compose this fanfare is not only an honor but also a tribute to what BW means to me."
BW Faculty: Clint Needham '04, composer, BW Composer in Residence; Jack Sutte, trumpet, The Cleveland Orchestra; Jesse McCormick, horn, The Cleveland Orchestra; Richard Stout, trombone, The Cleveland Orchestra; Ken Heinlein, tuba, Akron Symphony; Josh Ryan, percussion, Africa -> West Trio
BW Alumni: Lyle Steelman '01, trumpet, The Cleveland Orchestra; Mark Maliniak '08, trumpet, Atlanta Symphony; Casidy Reed '19, trumpet, Eastman School of Music graduate student; Josiah Bullach '15, horn, Louisiana Philharmonic; Jon Morawski '12, horn, University of Illinois graduate student; Julia Dennis '16, trombone, Erie Philharmonic; Keith Alcius '17, tuba, Pearland Chamber Orchestra; James Wyman '06, timpani, Baltimore Symphony
Current BW students: Kyle Perisutti '21, trumpet, BM Trumpet Performance; David Peita '21, horn, BM in Music Therapy; Brendan Loeb '21, trombone, BM Trombone Performance; Trisha Hardner '21, percussion, BM in Music Education
This post originally appeared on BW News & Events April 20, 2021.
Written by Joyce DeGirolamo, Public Information Coordinator.
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