After two years in the planning, finally the momentous low brass week and the Brucknerhaus, Linz arrived and now has passed. It was a tumultuous week with outstanding performances and we all shared an awareness that this was a very important time for our instruments. Not only did we have the best tuba and euphonium players in the world present in Linz, but we were also joined by leading teachers, academics and composers and conductors from Europe and beyond.
Over 60 world premieres took place, as well as many first European performances, this staggering statistic bodes well for our art, with everyone leaving Linz motivated and recharged to do more for our instruments in whatever sphere of influence we find ourselves.
For many it was a chance to renew acquaintances with old friends, either sitting in the concert hall listening to performances or chatting late into the night with a cold drink! It reminded me once again that our business is a people business. We work with people to produce beautiful music, and we need audiences and we need press attention and we need missionaries in some countries too. I was delighted to welcome and introduce to the low brass audience performers such as Sebastien Rozzo from Colombia who delighted the Thursday evening audience with his free improvisation. I was also delighted to see a quartet of young players from Thailand who performed so excellently. I was proud and thrilled to see that the quartet of young Lithuanian musicians who drove all the way from Vilnius presented a thought-provoking seminar on the development of low brass music in the country. We had over 30 musicians from Japan who made the long trip. I heard the story of a young competitor, Andrii, in the Young Artist Tuba competition who was taking a bus from Kiev to Nuremberg and the bus broke down halfway across Poland! He was anxious not to be late arriving in Linz for the competition and so he hitchhiked! He got picked up by a Polish man who drove him all the way to Nuremburg for the sum of 10 Euro. In fact, the beginning of the week was full of amazing stories, trials and tribulations with airlines who still refuse to either acknowledge that musicians need to travel with the instruments, or who showed scant regard for instrument safety, resulting in many instruments becoming damaged in transit, and also going back home, as I've learned.
The competitions went extraordinarily well, as the jury members used a new criteria-based system that I had devised, similar but slightly more simple than the version that I brought to public attention in the brass band world about 3 years ago. I will be publishing full feedback on this system and the reactions from competitors and jury members in due course, but suffice to say I did not receive one complaint about the results and all participants seemed delighted with the feedback that the transparent scoring system gave them and the positive nature of the comments, where competitors can now seek to act on the comments they received. This judging system also meant that there was no need for lengthy discussions in the jury room following each competition, simply some arithmetic. I sincerely hope that a similar or even the same system can be introduced at other international and national solo and ensemble competitions as I sincerely believe that this is a fair, honest and transparent system that benefits in the end both the jury and all competitors as well as spectators at competitions.
In terms of my personal highlights, there were way too many to mention, at least 5 or 6 every day, with stunning performances from leading soloists and incredible accompaniments both from the ITEC pianists and the local ensembles from Upper Austria, Munich, and the James Madison University Brass Band from the USA. Of the non-tuba and euphonium soloists present, it is clear to say how that Mnozil Brass and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon made stunning impressions on everyone in Linz. For many, to hear them both performing on the same day was a musical moment in their lives perhaps never to be repeated. We were all privileged to be there. The full schedule meant that there were tough choices for audiences to decide between, often with 2 and sometimes 3 simultaneous events around the Brucknerhaus. There were some remarkable seminars that gave the audience members an insight into state-of-the-art research, education initiatives, the use of computers in low brass education, micro tonal instruments and much more.
Throughout, the hard-working Linz-based team worked what seemed like 20 hour days, processing registrations, organising equipment, signs, moving equipment for the next major production and helping with every imaginable question. I thank them all for their extraordinary hard work not only during this week but in the weeks and months leading up to it.
We were worried that the inclement summer weather that was prevalent in parts of Europe would cause us problems in Austria, but we needn't have worried. The weather was spectacularly good all week, with the last few days even perhaps being too hot. All the time, the River Danube flowed past and was a magnificent backdrop to our musical activities.
On the Friday afternoon we all gathered by the river and a specially produced concert stage to perform the new work composed by Austrian composer, Thomas Doss, that we'd heard snippets of before all the major concerts in the Brucknerhaus. The ITEC Fanfare was the signature tune for the week and its broad magnificence resonated with all participants. The sight and sound of hundreds of tuba and euphonium players playing together outside by the Danube was quite memorable. I saw young upcoming students standing next to world renowned soloists, all united in their love of their instruments, sharing the passion and love they have to perform. For me there, in one moment, was the absolute reason we have such events.
Although I was too busy and too exhausted in the very late evenings, I gather that the musical camaraderie went on until the very early hours around the city!
I hope that the ITEA organisation is pleased with the efforts that we made to host this ITEC, and that the many new members they have gained due to the supplement to the registration cost for ITEA membership, will be made to feel welcome and that there membership will be seen to be relevant to them. We sincerely tried to make this a truly international event, with the multilingual website, and from the way that we featured participants from all over the world. For me, the challenge for ITEA is to truly represent its international membership and not concentrate on US-based activities, and in that way, as we can see from the wonderful synthesis of musical cultures and styles that we had in Linz, we can grow together as a movement, learning from each other, responding to each other's initiatives and ideas, and provide a better future for our instruments in the wider musical world.
My one and only disappointment was that there were not more German and Austrian students and teachers present to witness these incredible days. The comment was made to me on several occasions by prominent Austrian teachers that they were very disappointed that there on their doorstep was one of the most amazing gatherings of low brass players and teachers from around the world, and many of the Austrians and the Germans who had promised to attend were noticeable by their absence. This for me was a little disappointing.
Thanks once again for the tremendous support that you've given me personally and to the festival that we've just enjoyed in Austria. Enjoy the rest of the summer and hopefully the memories of ITEC 2012 will last for many years to come.
Artistic Director ITEC 2012