In the spring of 2017 David Maslanka was in residence at The Hartt School where we played his Symphony No. 4. Below is a reflection on this extraordinary event. A Link to the performance is also listed below. You can also find the recording in the media (Video) tab on this website.
David Maslanka: A Memory from Glen Adsit, Director of Bands at The Hartt School
It’s possible that David’s last guest engagement was at The Hartt School in early May of 2017. His visit was probably identical in many respects to the hundreds of such residencies he did during his lifetime. For me however, this visit was anything but a typical residency.
The seeds of this residency began back in the summer of 2016. I had been diagnosed with a bone marrow cancer called myelofibrosis, and leukemia. The only treatment option was a bone marrow transplant. I spent seven weeks as an inpatient at Yale New Haven Hospital preparing for and receiving my transplant. At that point in the process I knew that I was not going to be teaching at all during the fall semester and the spring was a very big question mark. As one might imagine, I had a great deal of time in the hospital and one way to fill the long days was to listen to music. On my computer I have a playlist entitled: Music I Want to Know Better. Included in that list was David’s Symphony No. 4. Although I had heard it before, I did not know it well and as it turned out, I would say I did not know it at all. One day, consulting my list, I started to listen to Symphony No. 4 and broke into a full out sobbing, emotional cry. It’s not like me to react that strongly and at the time, I chalked it up to being emotional from the chemotherapy. After all, my very survival was more immediately in question than it had ever been before. A few days went by and I decided to listen again. Once again I broke down. I ordered a score. When the score arrived, I read the program notes, which stated that, “The central driving force is the spontaneous rise of the impulse to shout for the joy of life.” It became a “rallying cry” for me. I was determined to perform this repertoire if my health progressed to the point that I could go back to work again. In the spring of 2017, I returned to Hartt and programmed it on my final concert of the year. My dream of conducting David’s piece was going to become a reality.
Every year for the past 15 years Hartt has hosted the “Unclaimed Property Composer in Residence” series sponsored by my dear friend Susan Brake. Because of my illness I was not able to plan the annual residency. In early April Susan called. We discussed the residency and I had the idea that maybe it wasn’t too late to see if David was available. I immediately called David and explained my situation and the special place that Symphony No. 4 had in my life. Despite what was too busy of a schedule for him, David told me that he, “felt compelled to be with me” at Hartt.
At the time I had no idea what he meant when he said, “be with me.” From the moment he arrived he assumed the role of a mentor, teacher, friend and someone who understood how fragile I was and what I needed at that very moment. His visit was filled with talks to and from the hotel, over dinner and lunch about the value of meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and how his music reflects those values. He engaged with my students both in and out of rehearsal. When I first distributed the music to my ensemble, I explained the importance of this work in my life. I will forever be grateful to them because each and every one of them prepared in a way that conveyed that they understood. By the time David arrived, we all thought we were ready. I was not prepared for the next lesson that David was about to impart. In our first rehearsal, he transformed the piece and infused it