Institute for the Advancement of Secondary and Primary Instrumental Repertoire Excellence


I am announcing the formation of the NWECG middle and high school commissioning group and institute at the Hartt School called ASPIRE, the Advancement of Secondary and Primary Instrumental Repertoire Excellence.

The purpose of ASPIRE is to commission well-known composers who have not significantly contributed to the high school and middle school repertoire.  I am seeking a 5-year ($1,500.00 total) commitment from at least two high schools and two middle school in every state. With 200+ schools participating, I think we could commission four composers each year to write a 4-10 minute work each. I propose that every year, we commission four compositions: grade two, three, four and five. Of course if we have greater participation than expected we could commission more works. If we have fewer than expected we will only commission a couple of pieces a year.

 As I see it, there are a few unique challenges with this proposal. I suspect that many if not all of the composers we might like to ask probably have no idea what grade levels are. With that in mind, I propose we match a composer with a board member or board designate who knows what grade levels are. Furthermore, we would specify to the composer in his/her contract that he/she must conform to the technical demands of the proposed commission and run any questionable content by the assigned board member or board designee for input.

 It is possible that some composers may react negatively to this. On the other hand, our young students deserve appropriate and quality literature to play and this seems like it might have a shot at working. Perhaps the professional rate fee may have an influence on their decision to work collaboratively with someone.

 As I did with the collegiate group (NWECG) I have already formed an artistic board of directors comprised of some of the finest educators from across the country that include public school teachers, collegiate music educators, and a professional composer who regularly writes for young bands. Service to this board is unpaid. The following educators have agreed to serve on the board (their bios are included below):


1. Glen Adsit, Director of Bands, The Hartt School

2. Michael Colgrass, Composer

3. Brian Downey, Director of Bands, Las Vegas Academy

4. Cheryl Floyd, Director of Bands, Hill Country Middle School, Austin Texas

5. Dick Floyd, Texas State Director of Music Emeritus

6. Robert Myers, Coordinator of Fine Arts, Arlington ISD, Arlington, Texas

7. Todd Nichols, Director of Bands, Roxbury high School, Roxbury New Jersey

8. Matt Temple, Director of Bands, New Trier High School, Winnetka, Illinois

9. David Vandewalker, Assistant Director of Bands, Georgia State University

10. Todd Zimbelman, Director of Bands West Salem High School, Salem-Keizer, Oregon

I will advertise the formation of this group in all 50 states with the goal of securing participation from at least two high schools and two middle schools from every state in the country. With 2 high schools and two middle schools each contributing $300 a year for five years we would have $300,00 total to commission composers. Generally each commission would, on average, cost $12,000 and that would mean we could commission nearly 20 works over the span of the five years and have a small budget to cover the cost of the composer to attend the board-chosen workshop premiere performance. Given the success of the collegiate initiative, I am confident that this could grow far bigger than the goals I have stated. As is the case with the collegiate group, all funds are run through a restricted account at The Hartt School and 100% of the collected funds are used on the commission process. Nobody involved will be receiving a salary for this initiative. Once the membership is finalized, all members will have the opportunity to nominate potential composers for the commissions. Those nominations would then be passed on to the ASPIRE Artistic Board of Directors who will be responsible for the final selection of composers.  Composers will then be contacted with the description of the requested piece (difficulty level, length, instrumentation, etc.) and will have to agree to partner with an assigned board member or board designate that would help guide the composer regarding the appropriateness of the composition for the age group.  It is possible that some composers may not be interested in this project because they do not want to work with a collaborator but those that do will be committed to writing creative works appropriate for young musicians. Contracts will be issued for the composers that have accepted the invitation with a description of the composition proposed, the assigned board designate and the financial and delivery terms. Each composer will deliver the finished score and parts to me via PDF, and I will forward them to the membership. Once the group has selected the composers and agreed upon a delivery date, the board will work on a high profile premiere. Hopefully the premiere will include the composer going into the school to work with the students on the composition. Each member of the consortium (hopefully 200 members) would have a one-year exclusive world premiere rights. Once the year has passed the composer can publish the work for public purchase.




Glen Adsit is the Director of Bands at The Hartt School where he conducts the Wind Ensemble and the Foot in the Door ensemble and guides all aspects of the graduate wind conducting degrees. Professor Adsit was appointed the Director of Bands at The Hartt School in the fall of 2000 and was awarded the 2014 Larsen Award for outstanding teaching at the University of Hartford. Prior to his appointment at The Hartt School he served as the Associate Director of Bands at the University of New Mexico. From 1986 to 1992 he taught at both the junior high and high school levels in the Plymouth-Canton School District in MichiganIn 2010 the Hartt Wind Ensemble made its Carnegie Hall debut in Stern Auditorium performing the world premiere performance of Dragon Rhyme by Chen Yi. The ensemble also performed at the 2007 (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and 2011 (Seattle, Washington) College Band Directors National Association Conference and three times at the Eastern Division CBDNA Conferences. Ensembles under his direction have performed at Hill Auditorium (Ann Arbor, Michigan), the Musikverein (Vienna, Austria), Benroya Ilsley Hall (Seattle, Washington) Carnegie Hall’s Stern Hall (New York, New York) and the Central Conservatory (Beijing, China) among others. Adsit’s performances have won praise from such notable composers as John Corigliano, Joseph Schwanter, Bright Sheng, Susan Botti, Joan Tower, Michael Colgrass and William Bolcom. The Hartt Wind Ensemble has recorded two compact discs for the NAXOS label; Passaggi and Dragon Rhyme. In reviews Gramophone Magazine describes The Hartt Wind Ensemble as “stellar” and Fanfare Magazine wrote “and on the evidence of his two Naxos CDs, Adsit is simply one of the finest conductors leading a wind ensemble today.” His professional conducting includes performances with the United States Coast Guard Band, US Army Field Band, The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, The Rochester Philharmonic and regular appearances with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. In 2012 he served as the Conductor in Residence for the Beijing International Composition Workshop held at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, China.


Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) began his musical career in Chicago where his first professional experiences were as a jazz drummer (1944-49). He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1954 with a degree in performance and composition and his studies included training with Darius Milhaud at the Aspen Festival and Lukas Foss at Tanglewood. He served two years as timpanist in the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, Germany and then spent eleven years supporting his composing as a free-lance percussionist in New York City where his wide-ranging performance venues included the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater, Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the original West Side Story orchestra on Broadway, the Columbia Recording Orchestra’s Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series, and numerous ballet, opera and jazz ensembles. He organized the percussion sections for Gunther Schuller’s recordings and concerts, as well as for premieres of new works by John Cage, Elliott Carter, Edgard Varese, and many others. During this New York period he continued to study composition with Wallingford Riegger (1958) and Ben Weber (1958-60).Colgrass has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic and The Boston Symphony (twice). Also the orchestras of Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, St.Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto (twice), the National Arts Centre Orchestra (twice), The Canadian Broadcast Corporation, The Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, the Manhattan and Muir String Quartets, The Brighton Festival in England, The Fromm and Ford Foundations, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and numerous other orchestras, chamber groups, choral groups and soloists. He won 1978 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Déjà vu, which was commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic. In addition, he received an Emmy Award in 1982 for a PBS documentary “Soundings: The Music of Michael Colgrass.” He has been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, A Rockefeller Grant, First Prize in the Barlow and Sudler International Wind Ensemble Competitions, and the 1988 Jules Leger Prize for Chamber Music.


Brian Downey is entering his 10th year as a music teacher at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, and his 20th year in teaching.  Mr. Downey is a graduate from the University of New Mexico where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  He earned a Masters in Arts from Southern Oregon University in 2005 through the American Band College. While earning his undergraduate degree, he was Bass Trombonist in the Santa Fe Symphony for three years, substitute for the New Mexico Symphony, as well as performing many other jobs on call.  His teaching career has taken him to positions in El Paso, TX; Rio Rancho, NM; and Clark County, NV.  In 2005, Mr. Downey was named as Nevada’s “teacher that makes a difference” in music education in America by String, Band, and Orchestra Magazine.  Mr. Downey is a former director for the Las Vegas Youth Symphony (2002-2008).  His teaching responsibilities at LVA include Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Co-Director of Philharmonic Orchestra, and Brass Methods.  In addition to his directing responsibilities, Mr. Downey has been the Clark County Band Director Association’s President from (2001-2003), and a Past President for the Nevada Music Educators Association (2003-2009).


Cheryl Floyd is in her twenty third year as Director of Bands at Hill Country Middle School in Austin, Texas. Musical organizations under her leadership have consistently been sited for musical excellence at both local contests and national invitational festivals.  Mrs. Floyd is recognized nationally for her educational and musical achievements at the middle school level.  In 1990 her Murchison program was the recipient of the coveted Sudler Cup Award presented to exemplary middle school band programs by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. The Hill Country Middle School Band has performed at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in 1998 and again in 2006 under Mrs. Floyd’s direction. The HCMS Symphonic Band also performed at the 2012 Music For All’s National Concert Band Festival and will perform at the Western International Band Clinic this November 2014. In 2003, Mrs. Floyd was elected to the American Bandmasters’ Association. She is the fifth female member of this 225 member organization and the first middle school band director to be chosen for ABA membership. Over the past twenty plus years, she has maintained a keen interest in commissioning new works for concert band and has collaborated with such internationally recognized composers as Frank Ticheli, Cajun Folk Songs, Shenandoah, Bob Margolis, Renaissance Fair, Dana Wilson, Sang!, Ron Nelson, Courtly Airs and Dances, Steven Barton, Hill Country Flourishes, Chris Tucker, Twilight in the Wilderness. Catherine McMichael, Cape Breton Postcard, Undertow, John Mackey, and Spangled Heavens, Donald Grantham. The works generated by these ongoing projects have been acknowledged as being among the most significant works for young band.


Richard Floyd is presently in his 52nd year of active involvement as a conductor, music educator and administrator.  He has enjoyed a distinguished career at virtually every level of wind band performance from beginning band programs through high school and university wind ensembles as well as adult community bands.  Floyd currently holds the title of Texas State Director of Music Emeritus having served as director of University Interscholastic League music activities for Texas since 1984.    He also holds the post of Musical Director and Conductor of the Austin Symphonic Band, viewed to be one of the premier adult concert bands in America.  Mr. Floyd is a recognized authority on conducting, the art of wind band rehearsing, concert band repertoire, and music advocacy.  As such, he has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe as a clinician, adjudicator and conductor including appearances in 44 American states and in 9 other countries. He has been actively involved in the commissioning and premiering of new works for winds for over three decades.  In 2002 he was the recipient of the prestigious A.A. Harding Award presented by the American School Band Directors Association in recognition of his significant and lasting contributions to the school band movement. The Texas Bandmasters Association named him Texas Bandmaster of the Year in 2006 and in 2009 he was presented the Texas Music Educators Association Distinguished Service Award.  In March of 2011 he was inducted into the Music For All Hall of Fame and awarded the prestigious Midwest International Clinic Medal of Honor for his distinguished and unique contributions to educational bands and orchestras. Most recent, in 2013 he was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame for his extraordinary contributions to high school music programs.


Rob Myers is Coordinator of Fine Arts for the Arlington Independent School District.  Prior to this role he was Director of Instrumental music for the Dallas Independent School District.  His current responsibilities include coordinating various aspects of the Fine Arts programs in Arlington.  Before becoming an administrator, he was Director of Bands at Flower Mound High School.   Mr. Myers is an active lecturer and ensemble clinician.  He has given presentations and clinics at the Midwest Clinic, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association and various colleges and school districts throughout the country.  Myers is a frequent guest conductor of region ensembles and summer music camps throughout the state of Texas.  Additionally, he has the pleasure of serving on the education board of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Rob Myers graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Trombone Performance and Music Education.  He is happily married and counts two ferocious Maltese dogs as family members.  Myers’ professional affiliations include: the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), Texas Bandmasters Association (TBA), Texas Music Administrators Conference (TMAC), Jazz Educators Network (JEN) and Phi Bet Mu.


Todd Nichols credits include work as a music educator, conductor, and performer. Recently Mr. Nichols was selected via an international audition as one of only ten Conducting Fellows for the 2012 Juilliard School Music Educator’s Summer Music Workshop. Mr. Nichols currently serves on the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic Advisory Committee and the MFA National Concert Band Festival advisory panel. As an educator, Mr. Nichols is currently entering his 17th year of teaching and his 11th year as Director of Bands at Roxbury High School. His ensembles have been recognized for outstanding performance at numerous local, state, and national festivals. Most recently his Roxbury Bands were awarded the prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor, being the only program selected throughout the country in 2012 and are the only program to ever be selected from New Jersey.  His wind ensembles have performed at the 2008 and 2012 Music for All National Concert Band Festival and the 2008 Midwest Clinic. His Roxbury Wind Symphony was the first concert band from NJ to ever be extended an invitation to perform at this most prestigious event. Mr. Nichols is currently the Artistic Director and conductor for The Eastern Wind Symphony, a professional level adult wind ensemble in Princeton NJ. During his tenure at the EWS, he has created a new guest soloist program, a visiting distinguished guest conductor program, created a new youth band, released a professional recording entitled Resurgence on the Klavier label, and orchestrated performances at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Mr. Nichols is active in recording projects for numerous wind bands throughout the east coast, having produced or assisted on many projects for various collegiate and adult wind bands. Mr. Nichols is an advocate for new wind band and chamber music compositions and has supported the efforts of various composers in ten commissions from composers including Robert Farnon, John Mackey, Joe Turrin, Eric Whitacre, Dana Wilson, and Bruce Yurko.  Mr. Nichols resides in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife Beth and daughters Sarah and Emily.


Matt Temple is Director of Bands at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. Mr. Temple has earned degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eastern Illinois University, and Aurora University. Under Mr. Temple’s direction, the New Trier Symphonic Wind Ensemble has performed at the Midwest Clinic, Music for All National Concert Band Festival, University of Illinois Superstate Festival, and Chicagoland Invitational Concert Band Festival. The New Trier bands regularly premiere commissioned works, many of them through the Consortium for the Advancement of Wind Band Literature.  Mr. Temple is a Contributing Editor for the Instrumentalist magazine and was recently elected to serve as a high school representative on the Board of Directors for the National Band Association. He is also a founding member of the Illinois committee for Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP). Mr. Temple has presented a variety of clinics on music selection, student-centered instruction, and innovative band curriculum at the Indiana and Illinois All-State Music Conferences.


David W. Vandewalker is the assistant director of bands at Georgia State University, the founding artistic director and conductor of the professional ensemble, Cobb Chamber Winds, and the artistic director/principal conductor of the Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Wind Ensemble. Prior to his appointment at GSU, Dr. Vandewalker taught in both middle and high school settings in Texas and Georgia. He is a recipient of the Sudler Flag of Honor, nine-NBA Citation of Excellence Awards, three National Wind Band Honors Awards, and is an elected member of the American Bandmasters Association. Vandewalker consistently works with composers, arrangers, and performing artists; performances under his direction have received the praise of such notable composers/conductors as Steven Bryant, David Dzubay, John Mackey, Scott McAllister, Ray Cramer, Fredrick Fennell, Col. Arnold Gabriel, Gary Green, Michael Haithcock, James Keene, and Kevin Sedatole. Vandewalker has led concerts before esteemed audiences such as the College Band Directors National Association/National Band Association Southern Division Conference and the Midwest Clinic.


Todd R. Zimbelman is the Director of Bands and Co-Director of the Symphony Orchestra at West Salem High School in the Salem-Keizer School District (OR).  Prior to his current appointment, Mr. Zimbelman has held Director of Bands and Associate Director of Bands positions at the high school and college levels in Oregon and Texas.  He holds bachelor and master of music degrees from the University of Oregon.  While at the University of Oregon, he received the Centurion Award for outstanding service to the university and the Outstanding Music Education Graduate Student Award from the School of Music.  He has studied conducting with David Booth, Robert Ponto, Wayne Bennett as well as attending conducting symposiums with Allan McMurray, Frank Ticheli, Gary Hill, and H. Robert Reynolds.  Mr. Zimbelman has received awards for Most Enthusiastic Teacher, Most Outstanding Teacher, Nike Teacher Leader, and the Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction award.  Wind Ensembles, Jazz Ensembles, and Marching Bands under his direction have received many accolades.  Marching bands have received over fifty championships, hundreds of caption awards, and have performed on national television for millions of viewers.  West Salem is the current NWAPA Marching Band Grand Champion.  Jazz ensembles have consistently placed among the top in their division at local, regional, and international jazz festivals, including 1st place at the University of Portland Jazz Festival.  Wind ensembles consistently receive superior ratings, qualify for the OSAA 6A State Concert Band Contest every year, placing top three consistently, and most recently placed 1st in 2009 at Southridge High School, and 1st in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 at West Salem High School.  They have attended national and international festivals receiving gold and superior ratings as well as performing at the Oregon Music Educators State Conference and the MENC Northwest Division Conference.  Students under his direction are regularly selected for All-City, All-State and All-Northwest honor bands as well as the OSAA state solo contest.