Rice Majors took over as artistic director of the Mile High Freedom Band in September — a mere two months before the LGBT organization's big fall concert.
That may sound like a lot of time to some, but rehearsing and leading a 23-year-old, 50-member charitable orchestra — especially a volunteer one that only meets once a week — is tougher than it sounds.
"The biggest challenge for me is coming into a group like this and not knowing everybody's levels of musicianship and what kind of feedback to give to different people," said Majors, 38. "Some folks have been with this band for over 20 years, so they have a very strong sense of ownership. I'm brand new to them."
We talked to Majors in advance of the Freedom Band's "This American Music" silent auction and concert, which features the songs of Leonard Bernstein, John Williams and others, at the Broomfield Auditorium tonight.
Q:Do you feel like you're jumping into a hectic situation since the concert is so soon, or do you feel like you have a good handle on it?
A: A little bit of both. Part of the application process was to develop a concert idea for the fall, and I found it a little challenging to develop a program for a group whose strengths and weaknesses I didn't know yet. But by and large we're going with the program I proposed, with a few little tweaks. I feel really good about how far we've come.
Q:You moved here earlier this year from California and have conducted bands and singing groups there and in Oregon, New York and London. How does the Freedom Band stack up?
A: One thing this band has going for it is that it's a relatively balanced ensemble. A band has lots of different kinds of instruments, and this band is obviously targeting a certain demographic within the overall community. We have a couple straight people who play with the band, but overall it's sort of a subset of a subset — we're not just looking for a bassoon player but an LGBT bassoon player. Really, we're open to anyone joining, but having balance relies on serendipity. I think the group is really positioned well to grow as an ensemble and take on new challenges in terms of concert format and repertoire.
Q:When did you get into music?
A: My mom started me on piano lessons before I was in kindergarten, so I don't remember not having music in in my life. Most people don't remember learning how to read; I don't remember learning how to read music.
Q:Do you have a favorite song?
A: I don't know if I have an overall favorite, but the band is doing one of my favorite songs at this concert, and that's "All the Things You Are" by Jerome Kern. It's a really well-written piece of music and we have a really lush arrangement for the band that shows off all the different sections well.
Q:What's next for the band?
A: In reaching out to different parts of the community, we want to have a Halloween concert next year that's aimed at LGBT families, which is an underserved part of the community. A lot of (LGBT culture) is about the nightlife and various volunteer organizations, but we really want to create an event concert that's a matinee with a lot of singing and dancing and audience participation, one where LGBT parents can feel comfortable bringing the whole family.
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