Two Students Collaborate with U.S. Marine Band

College of Music composer and conductor get opportunity to work with U.S. President’s top wind ensemble.

Project participants: Dr. Dana Wilson, Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig, Charley Andersen, Ryan Lindveit, Josh Kearney, Anthony O’Toole, Joe Krycia, Joseph Higgins, Dr. Paula Crider, Mark Camphouse, Frank Battisti, Dr. Rick Good and 1st Lt. Ryan Nowlin.
Joe Krycia with Kathy Schneider, former middle school band teacher and MSU College of Music alumnus (BA ’83)
Rehearsal with the U.S. Marine Band, left to right: Joe Krycia, Charley Andersen, and Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig.
Conductor Josh Kearney, left, and composer Anthony O'Toole, right, collaborate on a music score.

Considered the best of the best in the world, The President's Own United States Marine Band performs at hundreds of events a year, including national days of remembrance and White House celebrations, receptions, and ceremonies.

So when two students from the Michigan State University College of Music learned they would be collaborating with The President's Own through an exclusive musical project, the feeling was more than ecstatic.

"It was absolutely surreal," says Joe Krycia, a senior studying music composition. "It's such a huge honor to get a performance by one of the best—if not the best—wind ensembles in the world. I've been on the moon ever since."

Krycia and Josh Kearney, an MSU doctoral student in conducting, were among just six young composers and conductors chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants for the National Band Association's 2015 Young Composer/Conductor Mentor Project. The annual project allows artists ages 29 and under to work with renowned mentors and to collaborate with a world-class musical ensemble.

Student composers and conductors work in pairs and spend four days with mentors and in rehearsals. The project concludes with each conductor leading the elite band in a live performance of their composer's work.

"It was amazing," says Kearney, who was among the student conductors who led The President's Own wind ensemble. "It was like driving a Lamborghini. One of the things that really blew me away was how incredibly collegial and responsive the ensemble members were. I never once felt like I was being judged." See video below.

Kearney was selected for the competition in early spring, and told Krycia to apply. Krycia did. In April, he got word that he was one of two MSU students who would attend the program June 13-17 at George Mason University.

"I was delighted for him," says Charles Ruggiero, MSU professor of composition and music theory. "Joe is adventurous and willing to take risks. He goes all out—whether that means staying up all night or working with players when a piece is difficult to play. He wants to be the best he can be."

Kevin Sedatole was equally thrilled by Kearney's acceptance in the program.

"The unique opportunity for a young conductor to work on a new piece with a young composer is special," says Sedatole, MSU professor of music, director of bands, and chair of the conducting area. "But to have the U.S. Marine Band in Washington D.C. as the performing ensemble makes this experience second to none."

Before coming to MSU, Kearney had been working as a conductor in public schools. He met Sedatole through professional workshops and decided on MSU for his doctorate.

"Coming to MSU was the best way for me to get better at my job," says Kearney, also a trained trombonist. "I wanted to be the most expressive musician for my students, and to communicate the best way I could."

Kearney will defend his doctorate in the fall. He recently began as director of athletic bands at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Krycia plans to finish his bachelor's at MSU, to earn a master's degree and doctorate, and to work as a teacher and composer. His piece "Going" performed by The President's Own was his first for wind ensemble. He says he was humbled by his acceptance into the project, and by the partial funding from MSU that made his attendance possible.

"This showed me that MSU really wants to see their students succeed on a national level," Krycia says. "These kinds of festivals and workshops are so valuable for every student composer, musician, and educator to make connections and spread the word about our university." 

Photos courtesy Joe Krycia and Josh Kearney 

Video: "Now is the Time," by Anthony O'Toole. Josh Kearney, conductor. US Marine Band, June 16, 2015

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