Composer John Mackey visits RBHS band

Joanne Lee

John MackeyWhile the orchestra rehearsed, a little boy sat behind the rows of chairs listening. His mother was in the professional orchestra and he had to follow along because he was too young and they couldn’t afford a baby sitter.
This proved to be a benefit because he developed a special affinity for music, using his mother’s university faculty card to listen to all the Brandenburg concertos by Bach among other numerous classical masterpieces.
This man is John Mackey, a nationally recognized composer who visited RBHS Tuesday, May 1.
“I found out that [Mackey] was doing a two-day visit with the University [of Missouri – Columbia.] So I contacted Dr. Julia Gains, the percussion instructor at the University,” said band director Steve Mathews. “We’ve had clinicians come in, but this is our first time we had a composer come in. [Mackey] was very positive about our playing.”
The RBHS wind ensemble played Mackey’s work from 2009, ‘Aurora Awakes‘. Mathews said the wind ensemble played this piece for the district festival March 24, but since then, they have not had a chance to work on this piece regarding that they had other works to focus on.  But despite the limitations, the RBHS wind ensemble was able to play with mastery, which came to as a pleasant surprise to Mackey, who shared that while he travels all around the high schools in the nation, it is a rare occasion that one ensemble sound this good.
When he did critique, “He told us about specifics, like the specific instrument’s mistake,” senior and bass clarinetist of the wind ensemble Dominic Lardizabal said.
Mainly, for the remainder of the session, he answered questions regarding his development as a composer, his music and his own personal background both from the audience and the performers. From now and then, he’d slip in humorous comments now and then, making his story interesting even for those unfamiliar with musical realm.
On one moment of the public interview, a student asked where he got the inspiration for ‘Aurora Awakes’. He shared his detailed story about how it first came about – he first had it all planned out to be melodically pleasing and such, but however, the story of the music came afterwards, when his wife listened to it and shared that it seemed like a sunrise in the horizon.
“But I never really saw a sunrise before,” Mackey said.
The audience fell eerily silent.
“Of course, I googled it later,” Mackey added.
The audience burst into chimes of laughter.
Despite the professional aura Mackey carried with his musical conversation, he had an easy-going mannerism that drew the audience to him. At some occasions, he disclosed rather more personal information about himself from his past background and various relationships throughout his life.
Mackey “was a relaxed, chill guy… musical style and personality-wise. I really liked the way he presented himself as a person. He was really open, too,” Lardizabal said. “He told us that he found musical inspiration going outside, walking, staying away from the actual music, and that inspires me.”
By Joanne Lee