Faculty in Troy University’s John M. Long School of Music are finding harmony by bringing their musical talents together.
Musicians from a variety of backgrounds, who also happen to be TROY professors, are working together to create and record music that showcases their own skills as well as those of their students.
Dr. Dave Camwell, Dr. Heather Small and Dr. Hui-Ting Yang are at the heart of two of the school’s most recent collaborations.
The three music professors recently record a trio for flute, saxophone and piano titled “Epitaphe De Jean Harlow.”
Camwell, Associate Professor of Music and the University’s Director of Jazz Studies, came to his colleagues with the idea of recording the piece, which was written in 1937 by Charles Koechlin.
“I’m trying to put together a CD that’s a variety of music, from baroque pieces to modern pieces, and just knowing the colleagues I have here, I thought this would be a nice and unique contribution to the recording,” said Camwell, who joined TROY last year. “There are a lot of trios in music, but there are not that many for this particular combination of instruments — flute, saxophone and piano. It’s unusual, it’s beautiful, and it deserves to be played and recorded.”
Small had heard the piece before and immediately agreed to work on it with Camwell.
“It’s a very lovely piece, and I did know it, so I was excited to be on board,” said Small, TROY’s Assistant Professor of Flute.
For Yang, an Associate Professor of Piano, it represented a new experience and an intriguing opportunity to collaborate with her colleagues.
“This is the first time I learned the piece,” Yang said. “They are new faculty at the School of Music, so I was really excited. It’s a new piece for me, and I’m getting to work with new faculty, so it’s really exciting.”
The three professors and renowned musicians were particularly excited by how well the piece balances the three instruments.
“I feel, as three musicians, we’re three equal partners in this piece,” Camwell said.
The collaboration itself couldn’t have gone better.
“It’s what you hope for when you work with colleagues and friends,” he said. “We’re all just interested in making good music and being a good example for our students. We could certainly play this live in a recital, and perhaps we will someday, but we have a recording that we’re proud of and can look back on years from now.”
Camwell expects his CD, “Second Wind,” to be completed by this time next year.
While working on that project, Camwell and Small also collaborated with TROY Band Director Dr. Mark Walker on a separate piece.
The piece, “Concerto for Flute, Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble,” culminated with a performance alongside the TROY Symphony Band at the College Band Directors National Association Conference in Tampa, Florida.
“When (Camwell and Small) were hired last year, as well as a number of our other colleagues, one of the things we started talking about was collaborating with the Symphony Band and things like that, and when we performed together, what kinds of pieces we wanted to do,” Walker said.
Camwell’s familiarity with composer Russell Peterson led to this particular collaboration.
“Dave knew Russell Peterson, knew of this piece and had performed it, as had Heather a number of times,” Walker said. “Once we selected it and decided to perform it, it went really well. This was a really fun collaboration. The piece has a lot of challenges for the band. The most difficult part of the piece is not the technique, it’s playing in time and being able to react with the soloists.”
Walker said he expects the spirit of cooperation to continue and even grow in the coming years.
For Camwell, the experiences he’s had with his colleagues and students have invigorated his creativity.
“I feel a sense of renewal,” he said. “To come here and be a part of the School of Music, the faculty and students, I genuinely feel a sense of re-energizing and repurpose.”