NEC Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Winds: Bach, Dove, Schoenberg, Johnson, Dello Joio, Nieske, Atkins

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

NEC Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Winds close their 2023-24 season with a joint concert conducted by guest conductor Carl Atkins as well as William Drury, Rachel Brake '24 MM, and Jackie Hu '24 MM.  Joining the wind ensembles are members of Jerry Leake's Ghanaian Drumming Ensemble and master drummer and guest artist, Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng.

Carl Atkins

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Carl Atkins has distinguished himself as a woodwind specialist, conductor, composer, ethnomusicologist, administrator, consultant, and teacher, in “Jazz,” non-Western and Western European art music.  Atkins received the Bachelor of Music in Woodwinds from Indiana University, the Master of Music in Conducting from the New England Conservatory, and the Doctor of Music in Conducting from the Eastman School of Music.
        Atkins has performed with many noted musicians and organizations, including Gunther Schuller, George Russell, Bill Evans, Jaki Byard, and Herbie Hancock; the American National Opera Co., the Boston Opera Co., and the Swedish Radio Jazz Orchestra.  As a composer, he has written for solo artists, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, wind orchestras, and documentary films.
       Atkins was the founding director of the Jazz and Afro-American Music Department at the New England Conservatory, where he also taught woodwinds, African American Music History, and conducted jazz and wind ensembles.  He has served as President and Executive Director of the David Hochstein School of Music & Dance (Rochester, NY), and Board Chair of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.  In 1995 he became Co-Director (with noted Jazz bassist, Ron Carter) of the Thelonious Monk Institute at NEC.  In 1999, Atkins was appointed Associate Dean for Advanced Studies at NEC. In 2002, he was appointed Professor of Music at the Rochester Institute of Technology, serving as Chair of the Department of Performing and Visual Arts from 2012 to 2018.  Atkins retired as Professor Emeritus in 2018, and in 2021 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the New England Conservatory.  


This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here:

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach | Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048

    arranged for brass by Christopher Mowett

    Allegro moderato

  2. Jonathan Dove | Figures in the Garden (1991)

    Dancing in the Dark
    Susanna in the Rain
    A Conversation
    Barbarina Alone
    The Countess Interrupts a Quarrel
    Voices in the Garden
    Nocturne: Figaro and Susanna

    Program note

    For their 1991 Mozart bicentenary celebrations, Glyndebourne commissioned five composers to write wind serenades. Each serenade was to be musically connected in some way with one of Mozart’s operas, and to be played outdoors before the performance of the opera. I was asked to compose a piece to precede The Marriage of Figaro. Although Mozart’s comic masterpiece needs no introduction, musically or otherwise, I was attracted by the aptness of playing a serenade in the garden before performances of an opera whose last act is set in a garden, and which itself includes a number of serenades: Voi che sapete, Deh vieni, non tardar, and Susanna and the countess’ letter-writing duet Canzonetta sull‘aria. I had the idea that with all the performances of The Marriage of Figaro that had taken place at Glyndebourne, sounds from the opera had in some way impregnated the garden: snatches of recitative, musical figures, instrumental colours. I didn’t want to overwork Mozart’s tunes – it would be disastrous if the audience were tired of them before the opera had even begun – but each movement of Figures in the Garden is developed from a musical idea in the opera. Here and there an alternative scenario emerges: Susanna sings her aria in the rain (because it’s an English garden), and Figaro and Susanna finally enjoy a moment of shared tranquillity that is denied them in the opera.            
    – Jonathan Dove

    • Jackie Hu '24 MM, conductor
  3. Arnold Schoenberg | Theme and Variations, op. 43a

    played without pause

    Theme: Poco allegro
    Variation: Allegro molto
    Variation: Poco adagio
    Variation: Tempo di valse
    Variation: Molto moderato
    Variation: Allegro
    Variation: Moderato
    Finale: Moderato

    Program note

    Theme and Variations, op. 43a was commissioned for high school band by Carl Engel, Schoenberg’s friend and the publisher of G. Schirmer Music. Hoping to encourage original high-quality literature for band, he requested a piece with multiple characters and moods to enrich the wind ensemble repertoire. However, its complexity proved beyond the capabilities of high school bands at the time, and it is still mostly performed only by advanced bands today.
           The work is a carefully crafted masterpiece of complex counterpoint. Having completed his textbook, Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint, just prior to composing this piece, Schoenberg put into practice much of what he wrote. It is not a 12-tone work like many pieces he composed at the time but a masterfully created tonal work in g minor that demonstrated his virtuosity.
           The theme is introduced first by the oboes and clarinets and then developed through seven variations each increasing in complexity. As the piece progresses, elements of the theme are treated like a tone row through fragmentation, inversion, retrograde, etc. and played by various instruments according to their complimenting timbres and tessituras. When the piece climaxes at the finale, the powerful forces of the entire ensemble are released and a reference to Schoenberg’s dear friend and tennis partner, George Gershwin, is heard through a Rhapsody in Blue chordal progression in the last bars.                       
    – Rachel Brake

    • Rachel Brake '24 MM, conductor

  5. J. J. Johnson | Poem for Brass (1956)


    • Carl Atkins, conductor
    • Mark Tipton, trumpet soloist
    • Eli Canales, trombone soloist
  6. Norman Dello Joio | Scenes from the Louvre

    The Portals
    Children's Gallery
    King of France
    Nativity Paintings

    • Carl Atkins, conductor
  7. Robert Nieske | Pop's Parade

  8. Carl Atkins | from We Free Kings

    I. Dance for an Unknown African King

    Program note

    Dance for an Unknown African King is the first movement of a work-in-progress, We Free Kings.  This suite is dedicated to three notable Africans/African Americans in history: An Unknown African King, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rodney King. The “Dance” is based on ancient West African songs and dances associated with the war dance ritual known as Agbekor.  It loosely translates to “clear life”, the aspirational mental state of warriors returning from battle.  Agbekor is central to the West African cultures of the Ewe, Ashanti, and the Yoruba people in Ghana, Nigeria, and other regions of Central West Africa.
            The current realization was composed and arranged with the hope of successfully integrating African and western musical elements.  This involved the direct usage of melodic and rhythmic elements from Agbekor, as well as originally composed melodic and rhythmic material, based on Agbekor elements. The African percussion ensemble sets and maintains the traditional rhythmic foundation, while the melodic material is based on melodic material from Agbekor, and written for the wind band. The percussion ensemble consists of the “primary time-keeper”, the gangkoqui or double-clapperless bell, the axatse, a gourd, playing a stylized version of the bell pattern; various high and low pitched drums (i.e., sogo, kidi,kagan), filling in and supporting the bell pattern, and the “master drum” or Atsimevu, played by the Master Drummer, embellishing the bell pattern and improvising. 

    -Carl Atkins

    • Carl Atkins, conductor
    • Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, Master Drummer and guest artist
    • Jerry Leake, drummer
    • Victor Giraldez, John Jiang, Carlo Kind, Elfie Shi, members of Ghanaian Drumming Ensemble

    Personnel and bios

    Jerry Leake is a professor at Berklee College of Music, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and the New England Conservatory (Jazz and CMA).  He is a founding member of Cubist, Natraj, Club d'Elf, and the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society. He has written eight texts on Indian, West African, and Afro-Cuban percussion, as well as articles for the Percussive Arts Society Magazine.  Jerry is a student of Gary Burton (vibes), Godwin Agbeli, Alhaji Dolsi-naaAbubakariu Lunna (Ghana), and Rajeev Devastli, and T.K. Ramakrishnan (India).

    Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng (KK0) is a world-renowned Ghanaian drummer, singer, composer, dancer, and educator, who has performed and taught internationally for the past 30 years.  He began drumming at age five with the Fontomfrom Ensemble, a royal court ensemble that performs for the Paramount Chief of the Aburi-Akuapim area in the Eastern region of Ghana.  He was also a member of Ghana’s National Arts Council Folkloric Company based in Accra.  In addition to traditional West African music, he has performed and recorded a range of musical styles, such as highlife, funk, jazz, Latin, and reggae.
           Mr. Obeng directs the Ghanaian Drumming and World Music Ensembles at Brown University.  Previously, he taught at Wesleyan University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of New Haven, and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.  He has shared the stage with such luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Randy Weston, Max Roach, Anthony Braxton, Obo Addy, Fleetwood Mac, and Bootsy Collins. Mr. Obeng has given workshops at many colleges and universities across the U.S., and appeared at many venues and festivals in the U.S, Mexico, Brazil, St. Lucia, New Zealand, and Africa.
           Kwaku has been featured on many recordings and compilations, most recently playing on the soundtrack for the Penratonix’s It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, for Around the World for the Holidays on Disney.  KKO’s music is available at Bandcamp and CDBaby.

    NEC Wind Ensemble and NEC Symphonic Winds

    Chia-Fen Chang
    Anne Chao
    Jeong Won Choe
    Isabel Evernham
    Sadie Goodman
    Honor Hickman
    Amelia Kazazian
    Subin Oh
    Anna Ridenour

    Dane Bennett
    Donovan Bown
    Yuhsi Chang

    Robert Diaz
    Rebecca Mack
    Kelley Osterberg
    Victoria Solis Alvarado


    Dillon Acey
    Sarah Cho
    Evan Chu
    Xianyi Ji
    Phoebe Kuan
    Yi-Ting Ma
    Chasity Thompson
    Cole Turkel


    Zoe Beck
    Abigail Heyrich
    Zilong Huang
    Evan Judson
    Wilson Lu
    Erik Paul
    Julien Rollins

    Zhikang Chen
    Vladyslav Dovhan
    Xinyi Liao
    Zeyi Tian

    French horn
    Elijah Barclift
    Mattias Bengtsson
    Grace Clarke
    Graham Lovely
    Mauricio Martinez
    Willow Otten
    Noah Silverman
    Xiaoran Xu
    Qianbin Zhu

    Daniel Barak
    Ko Te Chen
    Matthew Dao
    Maxwell DeForest
    Sebastián Haros
    Eddy Lanois
    Reynolds Martin
    Nelson Martinez
    Matthew Mihalko
    Alexandra Richmond
    Cody York


    Becca Bertekap
    Devin Drinan
    Jaehan Kim
    Noah Korenfeld
    Allie Klaire Ledbetter
    Ethan Lehman
    Quinn McGillis
    Noah Nichilo
    Alex Russell
    Kevin Smith

    Bass Trombone
    Roger Dahlin
    Scott Odou
    David Paligora
    Ki Yoon Park
    Jason Sato
    Shin Tanaka


    James Curto
    Masaru Lin
    Hayden Silvester

    Isabella Butler
    Eli Geruschat
    Doyeon Kim
    Felix Ko
    Danial Kukuk
    Nagaieng Lai
    Mark Larrivee
    Eli Reisz
    Jeff Sagurton
    Halle Hayoung Song
    Lucas Vogelman
    Rohan Zakharia


    Wind Ensemble Graduate Assistants
    Weizhe Bai
    Rachel Brake