Eric Ewazen’s Visit to Eastman is an Exciting and Inspiring One

The renowned composer Dr. Eric Ewazen (BM ’76) was celebrated as an honored alumnus during Meliora Weekend at Eastman. Ewazen’s visit included a master class of his music performed by Eastman students on Friday, October 9, and receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award during Saturday afternoon’s Brass Cavalcade (October 10). As a brass player and performer in both of these events, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Ewazen and to work with him on several occasions this weekend.

The Eastman Graduate Brass Quintet with Dr. Ewazen after performing selections from Colchester Fantasy during Friday’s master class.

Early this semester, our brass quintet was asked to perform selections from Ewazen’s Colchester Fantasy in Friday’s master class. Before this opportunity, I had only a slight acquaintance with Ewazen’s music. I had played one or two of his works in the past, and was aware that he had written a good deal of music for brass instruments, but I did not know of his background with Eastman and was relatively unaware of some of his compositions.

Friday’s master class included sonatas for each brass instrument with piano, our brass quintet, and a violin, horn and piano trio. All of these pieces have become staples of the modern repertoire for that instrument or ensemble. When you listen to these works by Ewazen, with the composer in the room and with the knowledge that these pieces are just a fraction of his musical output, it puts into perspective how much he has contributed to the brass repertoire. It goes without saying that there is really something special about playing music for the person who wrote it. Having the opportunity to work with a composer, playing his music for him and hearing stories of how he was inspired to write each piece, is a unique and inspiring one.

A post-master class photo with Dr. Ewazen!

Dr. Ewazen was just a joy to be around. He is all smiles all the time, and repeatedly expressed how impressed he was by the performances of his music at Eastman. For example, he was ecstatic on Saturday afternoon during the Brass Guild dress rehearsal, when he realized that he was hearing his own music performed in Kilbourn Hall for the first time. He was happy to take pictures with students, sign copies of scores and parts and share stories of his own Eastman experiences.

On Saturday afternoon, Ewazen was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award during the Brass Cavalcade. He received a framed certificate from Dean Jamal Rossi and delivered a heart-warming thank you speech to a packed Kilbourn Hall. The event included performances by the brand-new Eastman Baroque Trumpet Ensemble, the Eastman Community Music School Trumpet Ensemble, the Trombone Choir, Tuba Mirum, Horn Choir, and Brass Guild. The Trumpet Ensemble, Trombone Choir, Horn Choir, and Brass Guild each performed compositions by Ewazen including his three-movement Symphony in Brass for brass ensemble and percussion.
Dr. Ewazen receives the Distinguished Alumni Award from Dean Rossi during the Brass Cavalcade on Saturday afternoon.

Meliora Weekend at Eastman is a time for celebrating Eastman alumni, and I was privileged to witness the excitement. Having the opportunity to play for Dr. Ewazen and hear him discuss his music will undoubtedly be a major highlight of my Eastman experience.

John Fatuzzo