Concerts scheduled for June 26, July 4 at Ashland High School
By Jim Flint for Ashland.news
Two Riverdance stars and a celebrated international tuba soloist will be the guest artists at this year’s concerts presented by American Band College, held June 26 and July 4 in Ashland.
The performances will conclude 17 days of workshops and clinics for 160 band director master’s degree candidates from 35 states and six foreign countries.
The June 26 “Evening with the Stars” concert will be held at the Ashland High School Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave., at 7:30 p.m. The 4th of July “Ashland Pops Live” concert will be held at AHS Stadium, adjacent to the theater, also at 7:30 p.m. The 160 students comprise the two bands.
The city will not present a fireworks show this year.
Fiddler Haley Richardson and lead dancer William Bryant will perform at the July 4 concert.
Richardson appeared in Ashland in a 2016 Irish-themed ABC show when she was only 13 years old. She first began playing the fiddle at age 3 and now is regarded as “one of the best fiddlers of all time,” said Max McKee, ABC founder. She is a featured soloist for Riverdance, the world-famous theatrical Irish music and dance show.
Australian William Bryant, trained in Irish, ballet, contemporary and tap dancing from the age of 4, joined Riverdance in 2014 and tours with them worldwide as a lead dancer.
Tuba player Patrick Sheridan is one of the most celebrated soloists in his instrument’s history. He has performed more than 3,000 concerts in more than 50 countries — from the White House to NBA half-time shows to the Hollywood Bowl. He’ll perform in both concerts, including one number with the Riverdance duo on the Fourth.
There will also be several notable guest conductors and composers in attendance. Among them are Cynthia Johnston Turner, dean of the faculty of music at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario; Col. Jason Fettig, 28th director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band; Dennis Llinás, associate professor of conducting at the University of Oregon; Robert Ponto, recently retired professor of conducting at the University of Oregon; Rebecca Phillips, director of bands at Colorado State University; John Mackey, a composer from Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Johan de Meij, a Dutch conductor, trombonist, and composer, best known for his Symphony No. 1 for wind ensemble, nicknamed “The Lord of the Rings Symphony.”
Four of Mackey’s works will be performed at the ABC concerts. Llinás will conduct one of his own works at the June 26 concert, and de Meij will conduct three numbers: “At Kitty O’Shea’s” and “Celtic Classics,” composed by him; and Bill Whelan’s “Riverdance,” arranged by de Meij. All three numbers will feature the Riverdance fiddler and dancer.
Tickets are $19 for June 26 and $15 for July 4. Visit bandworld.org/ABC/ for more information, and click on “Tickets” to purchase seats.
The ABC master’s degree program grew out of new curriculum McKee was developing for his undergraduate band music students at Southern Oregon State College (now University). He called it Band Director Prep. When McKee saw how effective the classes were for aspiring band directors, he knew it had potential in an expanded form for post-graduate study.
In 1988, he and Tim Lautzenheiser collaborated to put on a summer workshop that became the ABC in 1989. In 1992, it morphed into the master’s degree program, with 13 enrolled that first year. To date, ABC has graduated more than 1,250 from 49 states and 17 foreign countries.
McKee retired this year and his son, Scott, who has been involved with ABC for several years, took over the reins as managing director. Honored in 2021 by the Oregon Music Education Association for his service to the profession, Scott McKee, 51, taught for many years in the Oregon public school system and lives in Springfield.
ABC is different in many respects from other master’s degree programs for band directors.
“The big one is that there is nowhere else on the planet where directors can get a master’s degree that features nearly 70 of the world’s top clinicians, composers and conductors over the three years they’re in our program,” Max McKee said.
ABC also identifies candidates’ areas of weakness, out of 28 areas tested, on day one. For each candidate, areas in which they’re strong are set aside in order to concentrate on deficiencies.
ABC has many success stories to relate.
“Dozens of our grads are now conductors of major programs around the world,” Max McKee said. “Matthew Arau entered the ABC program in 2001. His high school bands went on to win state championships, and he is now one of the most-in-demand lecturers in the country through Conn-Selmer (an American manufacturer of band instruments) and his own company, Upbeat Global.”
Yiannis Koukas and Nikos Chrysochoou, ABC grads in 2003 and 2006, respectively, took their experiences back to Greece, where they now have hundreds of students and community members involved in two large band programs.
“The two of them are considered the go-to band people in Greece,” Max McKee said.
All ABC summer workshops and clinics are conducted at Ashland High School. Candidates are in class each day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“They attend clinics on a variety of music topics and rehearse with their peers for three hours a day,” Scott McKee said.
Scott McKee says there is much to look forward to in the concerts, noting especially the Riverdance segments, new music by notable composers, and participation of top conductors.
“Audience members don’t want to miss the performances of tuba soloist Patrick Sheridan at the June 26 concert,” he said, “especially his ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’”
Scott McKee left his Springfield High School job in 2002 to work full time for ABC.
“I have always enjoyed working with my dad,” he said. “He created such a special educational model with ABC, and I have loved my time organizing this creative program over the years. I am excited to keep the program moving forward with the next generation of outstanding educators.”
He added, “If you are a band geek like me, this job is heaven.”
Band fans can share a little bit of that heaven the nights of June 26 and July 4 on the AHS campus.
Reach writer Jim Flint at email@example.com.