The Parker Middle School eighth-grade band premiered a new musical arrangement titled “Gradients” at its concert Dec. 7. “Gradients” was composed by Andrew David Perkins, a Grammy-nominated music educator, conductor and composer.
In preparation for the concert, the students had the unique opportunity to work with Perkins during a recent class period.
“Working with Mr. Perkins was a great opportunity for my students,” said Jeff Stimson, Parker Middle School’s band director. “They learned what the composer’s intent was when writing this music and he was able to go into great detail about small things that excited the students.”
Having the opportunity to play a commissioned piece of music is an honor and a great experience, that few students get. In Stimson’s 18 years as a teacher, this is the first time that his students have had the chance to play a commissioned arrangement. “Gradients” was commissioned by a consortium of nine ensembles across the country. Consortiums allow more schools, directors and musicians to be involved by dividing the commissioning cost among the ensembles.
“It’s always a thrill to work with a new ensemble that has prepared one of my pieces, what’s usually the most exciting is hearing how the same notes on pages can be interpreted with so much variation by different players and directors,” said Perkins. “It’s fun to hear the performance change after sharing my intent with them or asking them to consider what I meant when writing it. Working with the composer usually helps the students understand the core of the piece, what is most important to get across. I think it also shows them that composers are real, living people and that they can totally be one if they want. I’m super honored to have had the chance to work with the Parker Middle school band, Jeff has done a fantastic job with these kids. ”
“I am so proud of my students,” Stimson said. “They worked incredibly hard to master this arrangement and when Mr. Perkins visited our class, they did everything he asked.”
Perkins holds a specialist certificate in orchestration from the Berklee College of Music, a master’s of music degree from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor of fine arts degree from Michigan State University. He is an active arranger, composer, conductor and a regular guest clinician and educator nationally and abroad.