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History Of The MIT Concert Band

    The MIT Concert Band was founded by students in fall of 1948 and directed for fifty-one years by conductor John D. Corley (1919-2000)[10]Mr. Corley made the band widely known for its performance and commissioning of original compositions for winds. On May 8 in 1949, the MIT Concert Band gave its first public performance at the Hatch Memorial Shell on Boston’s Esplanade [1][18].

The MIT Concert Band held rehearsal in Walker Memorial in the fall of 1948.

MIT Concert Band’s first performance, given at the Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston, May 1949.


Devote To Original Works

     In December of 1953, the MIT Concert Band became one of the first ensembles to devote itself entirely to original works for winds in the belief that the wind band was an important and unique means of musical expression and that its repertoire was deserving of performance [18]. In addition to performing works of well-known twentieth-century composers such as Hindemith, Copland, and Schoenberg, the band has commissioned many new pieces. Recent commissions include works by Jeff Morrow, Adrian Childs [13], Thomas C. Duffy, and Stephen Melillo.  In 1986, the Oxford University Press began a project to publish many of the band’s commissioned works. The MIT Concert Band has given the first Boston area performances of many major compositions for band, including Hindemith’s Symphony in B flat, Schoenberg’s Theme and Variations, Holst’s Hammersmith, Giannini’s Symphony No. 3, Hanson’s Chorale and Alleluia, and Reed’s Second Symphony [18].

John D. Corley leading the band in its early years


 

    Each year the band presented not only formal concerts at MIT, but also a Halloween concert [20]. The program of Halloween concert in 1985 was vivid. The eighty-odd costumed musicians made quite a sight and played at Lobby 7. One student conductor and alto saxophonist Edward Ajhar conducted the half-section, another student conductor and Bass Clarinetist Charles Marge conducted “Night Soliloquy”, composed by Kent Kennan. Three flute soloists Marcia France, Arlene Lanciani, and Clifford Yang were strategically placed on the three second floor balconies surrounding the lobby [3]. Those records shown the innovation of the MIT Concert Band.

    Several authors recorded the events and published articles on the The Tech. It helped the band to recover a part of history. Prof. Gregory Tucker had been featured piano soloist and performed Concerto for Piano and Band composed by Robert Starer [2]. The alumni John Bavicchi ’44 [17] played the Concerto for Tuba and Band, Op.101. ; S. Sax. soloist Edward Ajhar G and A. Sax. soloist Peter Gordon ’90 played Concerto Grosso, composed by William P. Latham [5]. Andrew Kazdin ’63 composed  few original music [6]. Wayne Baumgartner ’96 played Prelude for Euphonium and band composed by the Prof. Jack Jarrett from Berklee College of Music [7]. The MIT band had joint concert with Dartmouth Wind Symphony [8], and also another concert with MIT Concert Choir [4].


50 Years Of Dedication

     In January 1993, the band organized a week tour to commemorate the 50th year of John D. Corley’s conducting career in Iceland [15]. On Saturday, May 1, 1999, MIT Concert Band alumni from the past fifty years gathered in Kresge Auditorium to celebrate the career of him. He had been the conductor of the MIT Concert Band from its inception, and the performance marked the conclusion of a half-century of service to the Institute [11][12].   

    John D. Corley (1919-2000)[10] died of cancer on October 19 at age 81 in 2000. He directed the Concert Band from its inception in 1948 until his retirement last spring in 1999. During that time, he oversaw the commission of about 50 new works, developed a repertoire of more than 350 pieces and worked with more than 1,000 MIT students [14].


Reviews

    “John Corley is part of the history of music at MIT,” said Professor Peter Child of music and theater arts last year on the occasion of Mr. Corley’s retirement. “In true MIT spirit, he always emphasized innovative and newly composed work alongside the tried and true. He gave student composers opportunities to hear and conduct their work with the band. John is loved and respected by his colleagues and students for his personal charm and exceptional moral decency [15].

    Professor Alan Brody, the Associate Provost for the Arts, remembered Corley as a dedicated teacher who believed in his students’ potential. Music Lecturer Fred Harris, the director of the Wind Ensemble and a former student of Corley’s, spoke of the man’s boldness in commissioning new works and championing the medium of the wind ensemble over his half-century tenure at MIT [15].

    Thought by David W. Strauss’75 ; It’s the things outside classes I remember most, and especially I remember the MIT Concert Band and John Corley. Going to rehearsals, listening to John’s stories, feeling the special bond that tour brought to the group, feeling the excitement when pieces we were rehearsing stopped sounding like a big muddle and started to make sense[9]. Jacob A. Strauss ’01 who played under Corley for two years, described the man somewhat comically as “one of the few people here at MIT that [the students in the band] remembered when they left [15].”  


Recent

    After famous music educator John D. Corley, Frederick Harris Jr., Ph.D. had conducted the band for a short period. In the year of 2000, musician Thomas E. Reynolds started to teach MIT Concert Band. The president Jacob A. Strauss’01 leaded the band with officers (Matthew Munsey, Jeremy Nimmer, Laura Kwinn, Heather Dunn etc.,) and opened the new ear. One of the student, Robert L. Rucinski who was major in Chemical Engineering and minor in Music, worked as assistant conductor. John Bavicchi ’44 wrote an original composition, “Corley’s March” to commemorate John. The band also had spring tours sponsored by school every year. The band went to Washington D.C (2000), Niagara Falls (2002), Philadelphia (2003), Newport in Rhode Island (2005), Ottawa (2008) and Montreal in Canada (2012). The band was well known by the widely performances in states. Assistant conductor Stephen Babineau worked with music director Thomas about 8 years [22].

    Thomas and Stephen made a lot of efforts in music. They also invited guest musician Prof. Dave Pietro from New York University to play concerto with the band (2008) [19] and Dr. Stephen R. Anderson, D.M.A. who was composer of “Edge” to appear the spring concert (2014) at Kresge Auditorium. The key point of this student based band continued running well was having important alumni. Frank Kreimendahl, Karen E. Walrath, Michael, Bobby Piankian, Jacob A. Strauss and Nicolas Rockler helped band officers to deal with their duties smoothly every year. Young musician Collin Myers started to be the assistant conductor since 2014 [21]. The current president is Rachael S. Skye (2018)[22].


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