~ Photo above, Dr. Gary P. Gilroy conducts the Fresno State Wind Orchestra at the recent College Band Directors National Association Western/Northwestern Division Conference at Sonoma State University in March.

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

Every year the Lawrence R. Sutherland Wind Festival brings 1,500 music students to the Fresno State for its annual three-day festival in the spring. This year the Fresno State Wind Orchestra also took its show on the road.

Dr. Gary P. Gilroy, director of bands for Fresno State, took 60 student musicians to perform in the College Band Directors National Association Western/Northwestern Division Conference on March 22 in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.

Bands have to audition for the opportunity to perform at the conference. Only nine bands, including the Fresno State Wind Orchestra, from the western third of the United States were chosen. Other bands included the University of British Columbia, the University of Arizona, Central Washington University and Sonoma State.

“It is an invaluable opportunity for our students and faculty to meet and hear other musicians and faculty from top ensembles in the region and around the nation. Only the top college groups get selected to perform at regional and national conventions,” said Music Department chair Matt Darling. “Fresno State music ensembles have a positive reputation in the state and around the country precisely because our groups not only regularly perform at these events, but we host the Annual Lawrence R. Sutherland Wind Festival that brings top regional groups and adjudicators to our campus.”

In addition to performing, student musicians had the opportunity to attend a variety of educational sessions during the conference.

Anthony Perez Jr.Anthony Perez Jr., pictured, is a junior music education major who began playing the trumpet in fifth grade and the French horn during his freshman year of high school:

“One of the most memorable moments of the trip was our experience at Sonoma State. We had our best performance of the tour at this particular place. Their concert hall is one of the most beautiful venues that I have ever seen.”

Gilroy said taking the Fresno State Wind Orchestra to perform outside of our community helps raise the exposure of Fresno State’s music programs across the state.

“Only the best groups are going there,” Gilroy said. “We played a major piece of repertoire this year,” Gilroy said — American composer David Maslanka’s “A Child’s Garden of Dreams,” a five-movement work based on an unusual case handled by psychiatrist Carl Jung.

“It’s a very sophisticated piece of music,” Gilroy said, “and it had long been on my list to perform.”

No two bands are allowed to perform the same work at the conference, so as soon as the Wind Orchestra was accepted last year, Gilroy signed his musicians up to do the Maslanka piece.

Just a few months later, Maslanka died. “It made it that much more significant that we were playing his repertoire,” Gilroy said.

Perez said the experience of getting to perform in the Green Music Center inspired the Fresno State Wind Orchestra: “We wanted to take advantage of our opportunity to play in such a prestigious place, so we did so by elevating our performance level.”

Their performance resulted in a standing ovation from the audience, Perez said.

Gilroy used Wind Orchestra recordings from the Sonoma State performance to submit to the audition process for next year’s national convention in Phoenix.

“I’ve never taken a group to the nationals,” Gilroy said, “So I’m excited and very hopeful about that.”

While the Wind Orchestra was traveling, they also stopped to perform for two high school band programs, at the Modesto City Schools Band Festival on March 21 and for the American Canyon High School band program on their way home on March 23.

“This trip enabled many of the members to bond with each other over the course of a week,” said Perez, who also serves as librarian for the Wind Orchestra board of directors. “New friendships were being made daily, and that was wonderful to see. We all admired the hard work of our director, Dr. Gilroy.”

Fresno State Wind Orchestra outside the Green Music Center. The Fresno State Wind Orchestra outside the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.