WYANDOTTE – Wyandotte Band Director Jennifer Rose hears what most of us only see. Through the generosity of a mentor, Rose will get an opportunity to further her passion for music composition.
Rose is one of 12 composers chosen by John Mackey to attend the Midwest Clinic of the International Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago in December. Mackey is a prolific American composer of contemporary classical music for band and orchestra and is an acclaimed composer with commissions from the New York City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and the Juilliard School and as a collaborator with artists such as Doug Varone and David Parsons.
A few of Mackey's pieces have been chosen for performance at the conference, which draws an attendance of 20,000 from all 50 states and 30 countries. It’s the biggest music education conference in the world, and Mackey sponsored and offered his exhibit space to share with the 12 other composers including Rose in need of more exposure for their music.
“My spouse and I had the idea of turning the exhibit space over to composers who do need this opportunity, namely composers who are people of color, or women,” Mackey said. “Look at the program for just about any band or orchestra concert, and you’ll see nothing but names of white men. No offense to me, as a white man, but we don’t need any help - there are plenty of people who look like me on concerts already! What I wanted to do was find some composers who aren’t just boring white guys and give those composers the opportunity to meet the music educators from around the world who could program their music.”
Rose, along with Mackey's other sponsored composers, will exhibit their music to the thousands who attend the conference and have the opportunity to network with other composers.
“Hopefully when it’s done, those composers will have made connections they wouldn’t have made otherwise,” Mackey said.
As the Wyandotte band director, Rose is impassioned about both teaching and creating music while still having quality time with her family, her husband, and their two children.
“I kind of try to balance being a composer, a band director, and a mom,” Rose said. “I've wanted this kind of opportunity forever. I'm preparing a lot of my music, which is band and orchestra work, my original compositions, and I will have copies of my scores and parts that people can purchase there. I will get to know other composers and share my music with the band and orchestra world. I'm super excited. It's a huge opportunity. It's something that I've wanted for a really long time.”
Rose found her love for band music in the seventh grade.
“I was a typical band nerd when I was in high school. Band was my life,” she said. “I wanted to be a performer. I play bassoon that's my main instrument. I was hooked from day one. I chose it because it was big and I was a tomboy, and it’s huge and awesome, and nobody else raised their hand in band, and I did. I mean, it’s just a big cartoon. It’s a funny instrument, and it’s a beautiful instrument- there’s so many ways you can play the bassoon.”
Rose pursued her love for music at the University of Arkansas with a full-ride scholarship studying composition and then went on to graduate school at the North Carolina School of the Arts studying film composition.
“It was like heaven to me because I was surrounded by other artists and musicians that were like me,” she said. “It was the best place – they had modern dancers and ballet dancers, and musicians, and it’s a residential high school, college and graduate school in North Carolina.”
But the artistic creation aspect of music kept drawing her, and Rose changed her major and focus back to traditional concert band and orchestral composition.
“My first piece that I wrote was when I was in high school, and my friends and I played it in a little quartet. Composition was it for me. My sophomore year of college I wasn’t as disciplined on bassoon as I needed to be to be a performer and I knew that,” Rose said. “I’m good with being behind the scenes and being the person that provides the music, and I absolutely love to conduct. When I was younger I used to say, 'I bleed music.' It’s how I communicate. It’s a different type of communication. It’s who I really am. Words can’t always express how I feel. It has the beauty and this soul to it that you can’t put into words.”
Rose began to pursue a doctoral degree at Catholic University of America in Washington DC but was newly married, and the couple moved back home to be closer to family.
“I was convinced by my Dad and my husband that I should be a music teacher, and I did it, but I didn’t want to do it,” she said with a laugh.
She says her first year at a large metro school wasn’t for her. She then took a band director’s position at a rural school in Salina for a year.
“From day one I was hooked, that was it,” Rose said. “It’s instrumental music, and I get to teach kids how to play instruments which is something that I love. They ask me all the time, ‘What’s your favorite instrument?’ and I say, whatever’s in my hands. I love to play, and I love to perform and show others how to do it. The thing that I’m most passionate about is to get kids involved in music and get them interested in making music because music can do so many things for you. Not is it only can it open up your future to great opportunities but it’s just so good for your soul. ”
Rose has been at Wyandotte Schools now for almost ten years total but took a break in that time to teach and to raise her two small children.
“This is my third year back,” she said and added she still struggles to find balance in her busy life. “Trying to balance being a band director and a mom is fun, and it’s tough. I’ve had to make concessions on both sides.”
Rose’s creative process is unique. She hears music in the things she sees and experiences and uses this to mold her compositions into her musical pieces.
“It’s in my head,” she said. “I’m considered an intuitive composer - It just kind of happens, it kind of comes to me. I hear something in my head, an overall idea or concept. For instance driving across the Twin Bridges yesterday morning the fog coming off the lake was just beautiful, and it made me think of a new piece.”
She has shared some of her composition work with her high school students and hopes it will enrich and inspire her students to consider musical careers and aspirations.
Rose is working on recording and publishing more of her pieces, and creating special compositions for the high school students such as one celebrating and honoring the Wyandotte Nation’s culture. Another piece she is working on titled, 'The Princess and the Rabbit,’ is a musical tribute to friend Sarah Wright
“It was something that struck me when I saw her dance at a pow-wow, and I felt convicted of,” Rose said fighting back tears as she spoke.
Rose's unique and inspired work and audio recordings can also be found on her website at J.E. Rose at www.composerose.com.
“I compose works that are full of melody and emotionally charged music that engages both performers and listeners. I enjoy writing for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, and band,” she said.
Rose is excited to share her work with others in band and orchestra at the conference, and she is looking forward to the feedback.
“It’s a mecca of professional development. Being able to expose my music to the band and orchestra world is the biggest opportunity I've had at this point in my career,” Rose said.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.