Peter Hadley discusses WesWinds (May 8)

Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge talks to Private Lessons Teacher Peter Hadley about directing the Wesleyan Wind Ensemble, who perform a spring concert on May 8, 2012.

In 2000, Angel Gil-Ordóñez was the new Music Director of the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Peter Hadley was a Ph.D. student.  The two were talking and Angel said, “Peter, Wesleyan needs a wind ensemble and you’re the person to lead it.”  They put up a sign for auditions and only one student showed up.

Flash forward, twelve years later (Peter has his Ph.D.):  there are 39 members of WesWinds;  approximately 50% are Wesleyan students and the remaining members come from the Greater Middletown community.  “After that first semester, we decided to be inclusive. We didn’t hold auditions. To this day, we invite people to come to the first rehearsal and they self-select depending on the difficulty of the material.” One of the people he called on for help in the early years was his friend and colleague, Marco Gaylord, head of arts programming for Middletown Public Schools.  “I tell Marco what instrumentation we’re lacking and he sends me wonderful students.”  One was percussionist/pianist Eli Fieldsteel, now an accomplished composer.  “So alongside Wesleyan students and Middletown high school students, we have a doctor, a retired music teacher, and other students whom I’ve taught from CCSU.”

A mother of one of the Middletown students sent me a note last week, and I asked if I might publish an excerpt.  It was one of those rare emails that appear on your screen and for a few moments, you are transported:

“All I know for certain is that when I come to Weswinds, I often sit in the dark and cry.  I can’t help it.  I see my child sitting on that stage and l listen to all the musicians, and feel overcome.” 

“As I prepare to go to another meeting where people struggle with why we must reduce arts funding, or why the arts are more needed today than ever, I find myself thinking about how I grew up in a hard place with little reason to think that anything worth having or doing would ever be mine. But because I attended an urban public high school with a strong arts program, I found theater.  By my junior year, I had worked in a few theaters around the city and won a full scholarship and a way out. Thanks in part to a (very) little talent.  But more importantly, I had access to the building blocks: exposure, context, training and opportunity.” 

“I don’t take for granted the wonderment I feel when I sit in Crowell Concert Hall and watch this assorted community come together to make music. Our kids play instruments.  And I feel we are all one tiny step closer to grace.”

“The humanities are for all of us.  Whatever our kids do in this life, the experience of participating makes them and the world they will encounter the better for it.  We can never let it just be the kids of privilege, however talented.  Let it also be the children and future artists who beat the odds because at some point they, too, stumbled over the building blocks we positioned along their paths.”

“On May 8, family and friends will be attending the next WesWinds concert. Over the years, we have all come to expect to encounter unusual arrangements, moments that highlight superb musicians, and innovative ways to include all the greener musicians who sign on for the season. Last year Jay Hoggard played with them – and they left the hall after that concert on the balls of their feet, practically levitating up the stairs.”

“Thank you to Wesleyan for all their acts of inclusivity. Each Middletown student who purposefully steps onto campus, begins to imagine their future differently.” 

And thank you, Peter, for being gracious, skilled and undaunted.  I’m so pleased that my kids (and the other Middletown musicians) are participating in this wonderful ensemble.”

Here’s hoping you are able to join us tomorrow night!

WesWinds: Sounds In Motion
Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
An exploration of form and emotion by the Wesleyan Wind Ensemble under the direction of Peter Hadley, featuring works by Maurice Ravel, Percy Grainger, Johan de Meij, and others.