Remembering David Maslanka: One Year Later
I never met David Maslanka, but his music and influence on my life have been some of the deepest I have known.
I’ve played and conducted a number of David’s pieces over the years, and I’ve studied more beyond that. To know his music is to know him, as any number of my colleagues and friends will tell you. David was a quiet, gentle, deeply thoughtful and philosophical soul.
My first encounter with David’s music was in 2007 as an oboe player in college, and the work was his Mother Earth fanfare. I remember being very intrigued by the piece’s form and the musical lines that seemed to fly by before I could fully grasp them. Ultimately, I recall not being particularly moved by the piece.
Fast forward to 2011.
I received my M.M. in conducting the previous spring and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I wasn’t doing any conducting and wasn’t really doing any artistic work in music. While surfing for inspiration, I came across this video of a then-recent performance by the US Navy Band of David’s Symphony No. 4 from the previous fall.
This piece not only changed my perceptions of what the wind band could do, but it brought David’s music back into my life. Even more importantly, it proved to be the intersection of two of the most important musical influences in my life: David Maslanka and Mallory Thompson.
While I would never claim Mallory as one of my teachers, her impact on my craft (and my life, for that matter) has been one of the single greatest forces I have encountered. It’s only fitting that Mallory is such an advocate for David’s music.
For me, my experience with David's music has been one of ultimate emotional expression. I find myself being drawn back to David's music with increasing frequency - usually when I'm feeling particularly reflective or an overwhelming need to center myself. Whenever I have trouble processing something (emotions, events, life in general), I will wander over to my library and pull one of David's scores. For whatever reason, getting lost in his world for a little while always makes me feel better when I lift my head from his music.
It's this energy, this force, this ability to feel and process emotion through music that I always try to transmit whenever I conduct David's music. And while that should always be a goal when a conductor works on a piece by any composer, I find myself taking special care with his scores. This cornerstone of his music is something we can all identify with, and it's one of the reasons that I think David's place in the eternal universe is secure.
Thank you, David, for your wonderful music. Thank you for the way you've touched me, the countless students and people who have gotten to know you through your music, and for the wonderful embrace you've helped to create.
If you want some additional listening recommendations, check out these pieces: