Meet the Musicians
By Ellie McKinnon
As a youngster, he listened to his older sister’s chatter about the fun they were having playing in their high school band. He wanted a piece of that fun and found his way into the trumpet section. “That,” in his words, “is the troublemaker’s section.” And it was fun, though he allows that “…when you play a wrong note as a trumpeter, everybody hears it.” By the time he reached high school his interest in music was becoming stronger than his interest in skiing. Wasn’t so for everyone. His twin brother went on to become an Olympic skier. But for young Derek, music called louder than the swish of skis on snow. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy, and then went to the University of California (studying, among other things, ethnomusicology). Then on to New York University for more specialized work as a trumpeter. He concluded his formal education with a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Miami.
Florida also provided ample opportunity to freelance in ensembles, as a soloist, and as an orchestra member. He was able to contribute to film sound scores and even game soundtracks. This was life as a full-fledged, full time musician--and one in demand. But he wanted something more. He wanted to teach college students. Boise State University offered him the opportunity to do so as the Director of Jazz and Assistant Professor of Classical and Jazz Trumpet.
Oddly, this year it was COVID 19 that brought opportunity. Dr. Ganong wants his students to step into the professional world prepared to do more than simply be part of an ensemble, no matter how good that opportunity may be. Suddenly time was available to focus on adapting the curriculum so that students can expand their understanding of other aspects of musical production. Ganong feels that too often students spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for end of term performances at the expense of learning what else it takes to succeed in the contemporary world of the professional musician. Consequently, his students are now studying music technology as they prepare a recording. Using a click track to steady the rhythm, they record their respective musical parts remotely from home, separate from their fellow ensemble musicians. They will use software to edit, adjust sound levels and create appropriate harmonic unity as the musical tracks are merged into a cohesive, high- quality recording.
Professor Ganong has also redesigned the Gene Harris Jazz festival into an on-line experience including live -streamed performances that will be recorded. The festival will last a month, extending its life and allowing more time for reflection. In Dr. Ganong’s world, reflection is an integral part of the musical experience as is the ability to adapt to the differing demands of musical genres and performance circumstances.
During the Baroque period, trumpets had no valves and played only the harmonic series at the length of the tubes. In time, the Baroque trumpet emerged with openings in the tubes to allow for more chromatic tones. Finally, the piston and rotor trumpet emerged and allowed for the same scope of chromatic tones as found in the violin or flute. When playing Baroque music in 2020, trumpeters frequently use a mellow rotary trumpet or Piccolo trumpet and must transpose the music before them in order for the correct pitches to sound. Not easy, but adaptation is part of the musical game that trumpeters must play. Keep on playing, Derek, and keep on teaching. We’ll be watching for you and your students and will be eager to hear the music!
Ellie McKinnon, a fan of the orchestra and a dog lover. She served as founding director of Boise State’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Currently she is a freelance writer and offers memoir writing workshops.