Fort Wayne Area Community Band releases pandemic-delayed commissioned piece

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FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) – It was a special night at Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday. After two years of waiting, the Fort Wayne Community Band has finally released the piece commissioned for its 40th anniversary.

Three years ago, director Scott Humphries contacted composer Anthony O’Toole via Facebook to create a piece to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020 before its expected appearance.

After a two-year wait, O’Toole flew in from Los Angeles to work with the band this week and hear the play premiere on Tuesday. O’Toole is 33 years old and has been composing for a long time. He first got into music when he was five years old. He took piano lessons which instilled in him a love of music. He holds two music degrees. He graduated from Indiana University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in composition. He then went to George Mason University to earn a master’s degree in composition. After graduating from George Mason, he moved to Los Angeles and has been a percussionist and composer ever since. He usually works on a few commissioned pieces per year.

The piece that O’Toole commissioned for the band is called “The Crossroads”. He debated whether to make it a party piece or something more elaborate that could be played by other bands in the future. He ultimately settled on the latter, as he wanted the piece to live after the 40th anniversary celebration. He decided to write something satisfying and achievable for a community group.

The title was inspired by Indiana being the crossroads of America. He also wanted to capture the exploratory spirit of 19th century America. This is done through lots of train images and sounds similar to locomotives hurtling down the tracks. The piece also conveys the limitless expanse of American landscapes.

The piece lasts about 10 minutes. It starts with a fanfare, then turns into a fast section. A lyrical, slow section follows, with a singable tune. Then the piece returns to the fast section with a sprinkling of the same singable tune. The play then concludes with a grand finale.

O’Toole says the belated gratification of hearing his piece come to life has been strange. Usually the process happens sooner, but it was worth it. It can feel like the birth of a child and it captures where he was in life at the time he composed the piece. O’Toole views each of his compositions as a chance to explore and learn.

Ultimately, O’Toole enjoyed his time in Fort Wayne and says the whole process was special. He also went on to say that there is always a place for bands outside of school. As an adult, playing music is a way to express yourself outside of your workplace, and making music with others is special.

To learn more about O’Toole’s work, visit his website here. To see upcoming FWACB performances, visit their website here.

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