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Augsburg Faculty Shine at MMEA!

The Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) serves Minnesota’s music educators through professional development events, school music students through honors ensembles and festivals, and the music community through advocacy for supportive education policies at the state and local level. The Annual Midwinter Clinic held each February hosts students, educators and leading music industry vendors each year.

The Augsburg Music Department is proud of the achievements and fantastic work by Erika Svanoe & Rafael Rodriguez at this year’s conference.

Dr. Erika Svanoe, 2021 MMEA All-State Symphonic Band Conductor

Erika Svanoe, conducting the All-State Band at MMEA, zoom photo

You are conducting an All-State Ensemble – Tell us more about the group?

This group of Minnesota high school students auditioned around a year ago to participate in this ensemble. They were selected as strong musicians from many high schools around the state. Each student submitted a recorded audition. I conducted the Symphonic Band which is usually the slightly larger of the two band ensembles. All-State also includes several choirs, a jazz band, and an orchestra.

This year’s conference is virtual, so how is the group rehearsing and performing?

This year’s team of teachers and students all met via Zoom for three different Saturday sessions over the course of a month. I was very fortunate to work with a wonderful team of sectional coaches comprised of regional band directors and studio teachers who were invaluable in the learning process. While we weren’t able to rehearse in the traditional way, I was still able to have students unmute and play for me one at a time and give feedback. Once I gave feedback, I’d ask that student to play again leading the entire group by counting off with their metronome and leading everyone else in their playing over zoom. I also incorporated a lot of group motion activities to warm students up to the idea of recording to a click track, which they will be working on in the next week or so. Once all student recordings are submitted, they will be combined into a virtual ensemble available for everyone to watch and listen to.

Tell us more about the music you are working on with the ensemble?

I programmed two pieces with this ensemble. The first is a favorite of mine called Rippling Watercolors by Brian Balmages. I’ve conducted this at many honor bands and with the Augsburg University Concert Band. In fact, the “guide recording” that I chose to use was a live performance I did with the Augsburg Concert Band after our fall tour in Fall 2016. Our audio technician added a click track to that file, and the All-State students will be using that for their own performance recordings.

The second piece is a composition of mine called Mary Shelley Meets Frankenstein: A Modern Promethian Tango for wind ensemble. I originally wrote the piece for saxophone quartet, and recently adapted it for band. In fact, it was only one of four pieces to premiere on time last year before the pandemic began. I felt strongly that I should program one of my own pieces in this instance, as I felt it would add a “composer interaction” to the All-State experience for the students.

Erika Svanoe presenting at MMEA, 2021Additionally, as an All-State Conductor, I was asked to present at the MMEA conference. My presentation was called Make Some “Art”: Finding Personal Fulfillment Through Procrastiworking. I shared some of my own creative projects and experiences from the past 15 years, and laid out strategies of how to foster creativity as a means of personal fulfillment and self-care.

Dr. Rafael Rodriguez – 2021 MMEA Midwinter Clinic Presenter

Rafael Rodriguez conducting an ensemble

What is the title of your presentation?

Leadership and the Conductor: Two Aspects of One Art

Tell us more about this topic?

Leadership can be understood as the art of influencing behavior. Like all art, leadership can be systematized and taught in its component parts, much like the study of technique in music which informs great performance. Teaching is a critical component of leadership, but the leader’s role is much more multi-faceted than the role of teacher. The music educator/ensemble leader is better understood within a leadership framework in which “teaching” is merely one component.

Thank you for your hard work and congratulations to you both!