Maryland Wind Festival concert showcases area woodwind musicians
In 2008, Tyler Austin was a member of the graduating class at Boonsboro High School.
Today, he is a doctorate student of conducting at Michigan State University. But he has hardly forgotten his roots. In fact, the 27-year-old is working to ensure that people in the Washington County and Frederick County areas of the Maryland have access to high-quality concert music, not only during usual orchestral seasons, but also during the summer months.
Toward that end, Austin serves as music director and conductor of Maryland Wind Festival, which offers wind chamber music concerts, educational opportunities and workshops in the Hagerstown and Frederick areas led by young classical musicians from across the country.
The Maryland Wind Festival concert that will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21. Three festival musicians will present "Trios, Duos, and Solos!" in the community room at Fletcher Branch of Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown.
“We started the festival because we wanted to meet the needs of the community, to provide quality concert music that would be happening even during the summer,” Austin during a telephone interview from Lansing, Mich., where he continues his studies. “Also we wanted to offer educational opportunities in the summer for students who might not have access to more expensive programs in Baltimore and D.C. Some students might not be able to afford them or to get to them. We are trying to give an alternative in the community that students might benefit from.”
Known as MWF, the Maryland Wind Festival began in 2015 and offers 10 days of concerts and educational outreach, Austin said.
“We are based between Hagerstown and Frederick. Our main concerts are like the traditional, classical music experience where you sit down and listen to music,” he said. “But we focus on the educational aspect with more interactive, more inviting, less formal events at workshops, libraries, children's concerts, stuff like that.”
According to the MWF website at MarylandWindFestival.org, the organization aims to develop the community by presenting performances in nontraditional spaces and by encouraging audiences to ask questions. WMF holds its events at various locations through the community. Summer of 2017 was the first time the group worked with Fletcher Library and Austin said he is “very excited about our relationship with them.”
“I think that the Fletcher Library has been a great thing for Hagerstown in general, with its close proximity to (Barbara Ingram School for the Arts), The Maryland Theatre, and their commitment to including music in their programming," he said. "It's fantastic in terms of how we can use those relationships effectively.”
Sunday's concert will be the first time the group has done a concert performance outside its regular season. The free event will feature Matthew Angelo on flute and Jeffrey Boehmer and Bradley Mitchell on clarinet. The musicians will play “everything from traditional classical to jazz.”
“It's a lot of different styles. All the music is pretty light,” Austin said. “Nothing too heavy, all very accessible. The musicians are all very warm, inviting people who I am sure will just make it a really fun and enjoyable experience.”
Austin received his undergraduate degree in music education from Susquehanna University, and his master's degree in performance at University of North Texas. He taught at St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick for two years before heading to Michigan for his doctoral work. MWF is a roughly 15-member ensemble birthed from friends he has made at each school. A nucleus of musicians live within a four or five state radius including Maryland, but the ensemble also includes musicians from Los Angeles; Boulder, Colo., and other cities.
“If I needed players beyond what I had, I'd ask around within my friend group. Basically, everyone is just one degree of separation from another person in the ensemble,” he said. “That developed an immediate sense of community. I'm looking for just humble talent, and people who genuinely want to help through music,” he said.
He hopes to expand MWF in terms of programming and education, but also in the area of recording.
“We are already doing recording projects every summer. We record some of the pieces we play during concert series,” Austin said. “Over the next couple of years, I'd like to do some commercial recording as an ensemble, and pursue performances at a state and national level. I think this ensemble is capable of some pretty amazing things.”
Austin credits his music teachers in Washington County with setting him on the path to becoming a professional musician.
“They set me on that path maybe before I even really fully understood what that was,” he said. “I am grateful for all the opportunities I was given in Washington County Public Schools that would lead me to where I am, creating a festival with a mission of providing more educational opportunities and more quality music in Washington County.”