sealPurdue News

April 21, 2003

Noted composer directs original works at 'Bands Showcase'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Composer Robert W. Smith will conduct his own works with four different Purdue University Bands ensembles at the Purdue Bands Showcase on Saturday and Sunday (4/26-27) at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 111 N. Sixth St.

At 8 p.m. Saturday (4/26) the spotlight will shine on the Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert bands as they present their season finale concert. At 2:30 p.m. Sunday (4/27) the Purdue Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Alumni Band will perform.

Besides Smith, who has written music used at the Olympics, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Sunday concert features another special performer. Purdue senior Monica Boothe, a classical studies major from Indianapolis who won the Purdue Concerto Competition, will provide a solo performance on the marimba.

Purdue Symphonic Band director Jay Gephart, who arranged for Smith's visit, says Boothe and her fellow music students know Smith's name well.

"Of all the composers writing for band today, his music is played more by more levels of groups, from elementary bands through college," Gephart says. "I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a Purdue musician who has not played a Robert W. Smith piece sometime."

The prolific composer has seen his works programmed by military, university, high school and middle school bands throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America and Asia. His works also have received extensive airplay on major network television. Smith also is the co-creator of the Expressions music curriculum, a comprehensive pre-K through 12 music program written for school systems.

"What makes his music so popular is that his writing style uses driving rhythms and is exciting to play," Gephart says. "It incorporates a lot of percussion, which makes it colorful and, at the same time, very powerful."

Two Smith works programmed for the Saturday night concert include "Winds of Poseidon," inspired by Homer's "The Odyssey," and "Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual." William Kisinger, director of Collegiate Band, says his musicians enjoy "Winds of Poseidon" because of its visual nature.

"In the piece's center section, titled 'Tale of the Sirens,' there are all kinds of unique percussion," Kisinger says. "We have an eight-foot thunder sheet and colored whirling tubes, the kind of thing you buy in a toy store, that sound like the wind. There's a lot of very visual stuff."

The Pamela Nave-directed Varsity Band tackles Smith's African piece.

"I like his use of rhythms," Nave says. "The rhythm is the melody, and you'll recognize the rhythm from the conga to the cowbell, to the trumpet and trombone."

On Sunday, Smith directs the Purdue Symphonic Band in "Twelve Seconds to the Moon."

Gephart says that of all the Smith pieces on the two programs, this work is the most unique.

"It's not typical of his writing," Gephart says. "It's an outside-the-box piece for Robert W. Smith, a very fresh piece. The brass writing is very fiery, especially the trumpet parts. The trumpets lead the charge and the tempos are such that you really are drawn into the title's connotation of an incredibly fast charge to the moon."

The two Bands Showcase events bring Purdue Bands' regular concert season to a close. The Purdue Summer Concert Band plans to present a July concert at Slayter Center, and the 2003-04 season will start in late September.

CONTACT: Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Media interested in interviews should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, at (765) 496-6785.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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