Between Classes With...Brett Wery, School of Music
Brett Wery, Professor in the School of Music and Director of the Capital Region Wind Ensemble, finds inspiration for his compositions in so many places. He discusses his latest work, the debut of a new orchestra on campus and how he and his colleagues get students to dig classical music.
Describe your latest composition.
The new work is called Three Conversations With Coffee and was a special commission. It's designed to be about conversations over the span of a marriage. It is a piece for strings; a three-movement work and each of the three-movements has its own form. The first movement is very classical – a sonata-allegro form – very conventional. The second movement is a variation on a sonata form. You're tossed into chaos with all of these pieces swimming around. Sonata-allegro turned on its head. The third movement is a pretty straightforward rondo, a totally new theme. There are melodies that recur in each movement, they all cross pollinate. There's quite a lot of counterpoint in the piece with the trumpet and oboe – the masculine and feminine voices. In the middle movement, the trumpet player puts down the trumpet and picks up a flugelhorn – a softer, more mellow sound. The oboist puts down the oboe for English horn – darker and more mellow. The world premiere took place as part of the debut of a new group, the Binnekill Chamber Orchestra (BCO), on Oct. 30. Read the review here.
How do you compose and what number piece is this for you?
This is probably the 10th large-scale work that I've done. The form is very important. I always start with form.
The Capital Region Wind Ensemble (CRWE) has gained quite a reputation.
Yes, for sure. The group is going to be 20 years old next season and I've directed at least half that time and it's been great. We have 55 regular members and put on three concerts a year. The CRWE It's made up of professional musicians, most of whom are music educators as well, all fabulous professional musicians, and the literature is serious literature for winds and percussion.
How do you and your colleagues sell classical music to your students?
A lot of them don't listen to classical music so it's not part of their vocabulary. We have required listening. We immerse them in the world. Lesson and studio teachers have their students do required listening. They have a class in music history. We're getting them caught up on the last several hundred years of classical music. If they say they don't like it, I let them know that this is important music – you need to keep listening until you like it. I give them a list of pieces and I say, "listen to this until you like it. I know these five pieces you won't like at first, but keep listening until you like it."
It's sometimes a hard sell in music education for a student who thinks that everybody's going to be famous. The musical world is very competitive. I'm telling them all the time if you're not in the practice room, the person who will take your job is in the practice room right now. It can always be better.
About Brett Wery
Brett Wery is a Professor and Music Director/Conductor of the Capital Region Wind Ensemble. He is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching as well as the SCCC Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching. He conducts the SCCC Wind Ensemble and instructs in woodwind applied studies, chamber music, music theory and conducting. He performs and records with the Empire Jazz Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Adirondack Saxophone Quartet, and the Dogs of Desire. Mr. Wery is an active composer and arranger and a member of ASCAP and SCI. He received his M.A. from the University of Denver and his B.M. from the North Carolina School of the Arts.