FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It was a special night at Purdue Fort Wayne Tuesday. After two years of waiting, the Fort Wayne Area Community Band finally debuted the piece commissioned for their 40th Anniversary.
Three years ago, Director Scott Humphries reached out to composer Anthony O’Toole through Facebook about creating a piece to mark the occasion. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in spring 2020 before it was scheduled to debut.
After two years of waiting, O’Toole flew in from Los Angeles to work with the band this week and hear the piece’s premiere Tuesday evening. O’Toole is 33 years old and has been composing for a long time. He first got into music when he was five, taking piano lessons that instilled in him a love for music. He holds two music degrees. He graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with an undergraduate in composition. He then went on to George Mason University to earn a master’s degree in composition. After graduating from George Mason, he moved to Los Angeles and has been a percussionist and composer ever since. He typically works on a few commissioned pieces every year.
The piece O’Toole has written for the band is called “The Crossroads.” He debated on whether to make it a celebratory piece or something more elaborate that could be played by other bands in the future. He ultimately decided on the latter, as he wanted the piece to live on past the 40th Anniversary celebration. He decided to write something satisfying and workable for a community band.
The title was inspired by Indiana being the Crossroads of America. He also wanted to capture the 19th century explorative spirit of America. This is done through lots of train imagery and sounds similar to locomotives busting down the rails. The piece also conveys the boundless expanse of American landscapes.
The piece is about 10 minutes long. It starts with a fanfare, then transitions into a fast section. A lyrical, slow section follows, with a singable tune. Then the piece goes back to the fast section with a sprinkle of the same singable tune. It then concludes with a big finale.
O’Toole says the delayed gratification of hearing his piece come to life has been odd. Usually the process happens sooner, but he says it has been worth the wait. It can feel like a child being born and it captures where he was in life at the time he composed the piece. O’Toole views every one of his compositions as a chance to explore and learn.
Ultimately, O’Toole has enjoyed his time in Fort Wayne and says the whole process has been special. He also went on to say that there is always a place for bands beyond school. As an adult, playing music is a way to express yourself outside of your workplace and making music with others is special.