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Spotlight of the Week

Conductor John Corley celebrates 50 years with Concert Band

By May K. Tse

This Saturday will be 50th anniversary concert of the MIT Concert Band, and the final performance for director John D. Corley, who has been conducting the band since its inception in the fall of 1948.

“Mr. Corley brings with him to the group an enormous amount of musical experience, both as a performer and as a conductor. He knows exactly what he wants to hear out of the group on any given piece and does an exceptional job conveying that to the group. Many times during rehearsals, he will also stop and tell some story related to the piece we are performing. These breaks in rehearsals then give the band a more enjoyable experience overall, and help us to better unders tand the pieces we are playing,” said Robert L. Rucinski ’99, president of the MIT Concert Band for the past two years.

Rucinski continued, “Mr. Corley also has a tremendous understanding of the MIT student and student life. Having been at MIT for so many years, he realizes the pressures that can build for the individual student. He has always strived to make the 4 hours of rehearsals per week a time in which the people can forget about the stresses of coursework and do something different which they enjoy -- playing music.”

The weekly practices also seemed to be cherished by Corley as well. “My greatest memory from my years with the MIT Concert Band is of the enthusiasm and energy of the students. It has been therapy for me to work with MIT students. I can rem ember many times when I went to a rehearsal being very tired because of what I’d done that day; as soon as they started to play I’d get all excited about making music again,” Corley said. Corley cites attracting composers to write for the MIT Concert Band as his greatest accomplishment. He said, “I want to leave behind with me the idea of being dedicated to the creation of new music, performing new pieces, attracting composers -- both students and off-campus people as well -- to write pieces for u composers -- both students and off-campus people as well -- to write pieces for us. To date, we have a piece by a Lithuanian composer, we have more than one French composer, two English composers; these are people who have written for the MI T Concert Band in Cambridge, Mass. We’ve earned a reputation for promoting original works, works written originally for our band, not arrangements of orchestra pieces or piano pieces or ‘showtoons.’” After Saturday’s final performance, Corley will still be quite active. “I will be leading the Boston Brass Ensemble; I’m the conductor. We play for the MIT commencement. I’ll play for 11 other commencements as well I’m not as busy, but I don’t plan to give up music entirely and I want very much to help do whatever I can to see that the many manuscripts which were written for the MIT Concert Band get into a shape and form through computers and so forth to make those pieces available to other college bands,” Corley said.

Next year, the MIT Concert Band will be conducted by Dr. Fred Harris. “I’m excited about the appointment of Fred Harris, who will be the new conductor o f the MIT Concert Band. He was a conducting student of mine at the Boston Conser vatory when I taught there. I think he's going to enjoy the same things about th e band that made me so excited about it all these years,” Corley said.

The May 1 concert will feature two new works: Funk and Circumstance by Jeff Morrow ’96 and Time Into Gold by Adrian Childs ’94. In addition, over 60 alumni are returning to perform with the current band.