TMEA: Musical Innovation and Tradition
“We try to give them examples of good practice, inspirational players, and good modeling.” Mark Burke, speaking of the intention behind Charanga Music World, a cloud-based learning tool for young musicians.
Mark Burke was one of hundreds of exhibitors who gathered recently for the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) convention in San Antonio. Two exhibition halls were filled to the brim with sellers of musical instruments, sheet music publishers, fund raising companies, and college recruiters, plus purveyors of every sort of musical accessory and educational tool imaginable. It was as exhilarating as it was overwhelming. On one of my several visits to the convention hall, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark and hear about his innovative music education products. You will find that interview below.
As a musician and music educator, I always arrive at the TMEA convention with eyes wide open. For one thing, it is quite remarkable to be elbow to elbow with so many musicians. Birds of a feather do indeed flock together, we are a gregarious bunch, and there is a sense of high octane energy generated by this crowd. But more than that, I marvel at all the young, highly accomplished musicians who are just starting out on a path which will lead many to become educators; a few will eventually make it to the rarefied world of professional music performance. Of course, many more will go on to pursue other paths, to become doctors, lawyers, scientists, or perhaps even political leaders. Nevertheless, there is a collective energy and a common purpose at play here, and it electrified the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center throughout this past weekend.
In many of the young players I see myself, almost 50 years ago. I was a struggling high school musician, probably more talented in more academic areas than in music. However, I loved band with a passion, finding within the band hall most of my friends. I also found a great teacher, my high school band director Fred Junkin. Mr. Junkin understood that band directing was equal part coaching, cajoling, and inspiring. He got my undivided attention as he bit by bit encouraged my little successes as a horn player. In the Summer of 1966 he helped me get a scholarship to attend the Longhorn Music Camp, sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin, his Alma Mater. During that week long experience I struck a deal with myself. If I could manage to make All-State Band that next year, I would commit to studying music in college. Little did I know this would eventually define the next 40-plus years of my life. Beginning in the Fall of '66, I made a commitment to practice, practice, and practice more. Still, I never imagined I could really make State Band, but I did.
Today, nearly 60 thousand young musicians begin the audition process for All-State. In the end, only 1800 are left standing. These are the young people who populate the various All-State bands, orchestras, jazz ensembles and choruses. These are the musicians who will eventually carry forward the responsibility of promoting and protecting this world we are so reliant upon – music.
Mark Burke sees myriad possibilities for the latest technological tools in today's world of music education. This is the inspiration behind his UK based company, Charanga, and its latest product, Charanga Music World.
The TMEA convention is not just about All-State Band, orchestra, or chorus. It's more than just buying and selling instruments, buying sheet music, valve oil, or a new set of strings for the viola. Performing ensembles come from far and wide to provide entertainment at the highest level. At this year's convention the Dallas Wind Symphony was perhaps the premier act. This ensemble, formed in 1985 by Kim Campbell and Howard Dunn, is today regarded the finest professional wind ensemble in the country. They have made numerous first rate recordings while championing the considerable wind ensemble repertoire from such composers as Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Darius Milhaud and Vincent Persichetti. They also actively participate in the commissioning of new music. Since 1993, following the death of Howard Dunn, Jerry Junkin has served as the DWS's Conductor and Artistic Director. It was Mr. Junkin who conducted the recent program at San Antonio's Lila Cockrell Theater, and what a concert it was!
Today, when one mentions band director Junkin, the assumption is that the reference is to Jerry. But for those with a longer association with music education in Texas, the first name to pop up is Fred Junkin. Yes, that's the same Fred Junkin who mentored me in high school in Victoria, Texas. He's also a celebrated member of the Texas Bandmaster Association Hall of Fame. Fred served as TMEA president in 1965 and '66, and was a board member from 1960-1966. His legacy stands tall through his distinguished career as one of Texas' most accomplished music educators. And now his son, Jerry, carries the torch for the Junkin family and, more broadly, the field of music education.
Suffice it to say, the DWS concert was worth waiting in a long, serpentine line to get in. The ensemble's reputation is well deserved, as Jerry Junkin is deserving of his reputation. Jerry gave wonderful introductions to each of the pieces of music on the program while leading the ensemble in an exemplary manner. Finally, lending credence to music as a living art, two of the composers, John Mackey and Frank Ticheli, were present to share in the applause for their music. I look forward to hearing more from Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony and would certainly recommend that anyone who cares about music seek out recordings and live concerts by the DWS. They are, of course, featured frequently on KPAC.
Also at TMEA are music businesses that display the latest souvenirs, music and instruments. John Clare spoke with an exhibitor about why they thought it was important to be in San Antonio. Naxos is a worldwide company that creates and distributes classical recordings, and has been at the convention for many years.