Black Bayou Brass returned from San Diego yesterday, where we performed at the NACWPI national conference.  Our performance on Saturday went well, and overall it was a very successful trip. However, the journey got off to a bit of a rocky start when our connecting flight to San Diego was cancelled (mechanical problems), leaving us stranded in Houston on Thursday evening. The next available flight to San Diego (via San Francisco) departed on Friday morning, so we unfortunately lost almost an entire day at the conference. To add insult to injury, the airline somehow misplaced our trombone player’s instrument. After a few tense hours, his horn eventually did arrive, although the case was cracked…Despite these issues, we made the most of our brief time in San Diego and at the conference.

Because there weren’t too many sessions taking place before dinner on Friday, we spent the afternoon doing some sight-seeing around the hotel. San Diego is a beautiful city, with some really interesting sights. Here’s the view from our hotel window.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the world famous San Diego Zoo, but we were able to tour the USS Midway Museum, which was located just a few blocks from the conference hotel. The Midway is a massive WWII-era aircraft carrier which has been turned into a floating museum. This shot gives a good sense of the size of the ship.

And here’s the view from the flight deck.

Saturday was devoted to conference activities, beginning with a sound-check at 8:15am. Afterwards we attended a very interesting presentation on Thelonious Monk by Sean C. McGowan from the University of Colorado-Denver. Our performance took place at 11:00am, and we shared this recital with the Kokopelli Ensemble from Northern Arizona University. The group played a unique program with varying instrumentation, including a piece for flute, oboe, horn, saxophone, and bassoon. After lunch we attended two more sessions. The first was a presentation on using multimedia in concert performances, presented by Shana Kirk and George F. Litterst. Their demonstration was very well done, and utilized several different kinds of technology, including iPads, MIDI, still images, and video. I’ve performed a few times with multimedia, and it’s a great way to make works more accessible to general audiences. For the final session of the day we heard a performance by the Eldon Brass Quintet from Northern Arizona University. The group is comprised of NAU faculty Stephen J. Dunn (trumpet), Cindy Gould (trumpet), Alexander Lapins (tuba), Nancy Sullivan (horn), and David Vining (trombone). They sounded great, despite the somewhat dry acoustic of the performance space, providing a fitting conclusion to the day’s events.

Another highlight of the conference for me was getting a chance to see some new technology and publications. One of the most promising was a new notation program called Noteflight. Noteflight is web based, and projects can be shared in much the same way as a Google document. The demonstration I saw looked very good, and the product has lots of potential for classroom use.

Though brief, our time at this year’s CMS/NACWPI Conference was well spent and well worth it.  A special thank you goes out to NACWPI President Ken Broadway and incoming President Pat Smith for putting together an excellent conference. Thanks to their efforts, the NACWPI sessions ran very smoothly, and the presenters were made to feel welcome and at ease.

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