Swift Cur­rent mu­si­cian re­ceives pro­vin­cial band direc­tor award

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The Saskatchew­an Band As­so­ci­a­tion (SBA) has rec­og­nized Swift Cur­rent mu­si­cian and con­duc­tor Greg McLean's ded­i­ca­tion to mu­si­cal ex­cel­lence with the 2018 Dis­tin­guished Band Direc­tor Award.

The SBA pre­sented the award to McLean at the Uni­ver­sity of Regina Con­cert Band and Wind En­sem­ble fall con­cert, Dec. 4.

“I was just re­ally pleased to be rec­og­nized by my peers,” McLean told the Prairie Post. “I love work­ing with them and I loved the op­por­tu­nity through the years to men­tor young peo­ple.”

The award is pre­sented to a band direc­tor who has made an out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to band in Saskatchew­an. The award cri­te­ria re­quire that a re­cip­i­ent has shown strong mu­si­cal lead­er­ship in the com­mu­nity and the prov­ince, and that this per­son's mu­si­cal ca­reer has been marked by a con­sis­tent pro­mo­tion of mu­si­cal ex­cel­lence.

His pas­sion for mu­sic was the driv­ing force dur­ing his ca­reer and in his var­i­ous roles as a mu­si­cian, band direc­tor, con­duc­tor, clin­i­cian, and ad­ju­di­ca­tor.

“That's kind of who I am,” he said. “My love of good mu­sic and good wind band mu­sic, good jazz band mu­sic, kind of led me down that path. I wouldn't have been teach­ing in the pub­lic school sys­tem if I'd been teach­ing other sub­jects. I ad­mire my other col­leagues, they're ob­vi­ously teach­ing some­thing that they're pas­sion­ate about, but I'm re­ally, re­ally pas­sion­ate about wind bands, jazz bands, cham­ber choir.”

For McLean a life with­out mu­sic is sim­ply un­imag­in­able and there is a real sense of sat­is­fac­tion when hours of ded­i­ca­tion re­sult in a great mu­si­cal out­come.

“It just feels re­ally good in­side here (re­fer­ring to his heart) to play al­most a per­fect per­for­mance or to con­duct an al­most per­fect per­for­mance,” he said.

He traces his mu­si­cal ta­lent back to his par­ents and once he de­vel­oped a pas­sion for mu­sic his ca­reer be­came more than just a job.

“My mom and dad were farm­ers,” he men­tioned. “My mom took a cou­ple of years of vi­o­lin lessons be­fore she got mar­ried and moved to the farm. My dad didn't play any in­stru­ments. He sang in the church choir. All I can say is I think that's where I got my mu­si­cal abil­ity and then I worked at en­hanc­ing those through my de­gree at Cal­gary and then also my masters de­gree in Win­nipeg. So once you get the taste, once you get bit by it, so to speak, you're hooked for life and you should be pas­sion­ate about it”

He re­ceived a Bach­e­lor of Mu­sic de­gree from Bran­don Uni­ver­sity with a ma­jor in trum­pet. He con­tin­ued his stud­ies dur­ing his ca­reer and earned a Grad­u­ate Diploma in con­duct­ing and wind reper­toire from the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­gary as well as a Master of Mu­sic de­gree in con­duct­ing from the Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba.

He was a high school band direc­tor for 35 years. His ca­reer started in Kil­lar­ney, Man­i­toba, but he worked for most of the time in Saskatchew­an. He spent 12 years in Ester­hazy and then 21 years at the Swift Cur­rent Com­pre­hen­sive High School. The op­por­tu­nity to in­still a love for mu­sic in stu­dents re­mains an im­por­tant high­light of his ca­reer.

“Their minds are so open and their hearts are so open,” he said. “You just show them the way and they re­ally em­brace it. ... It was a mat­ter of chal­leng­ing them. I soon learned that if you ex­pect lots from your stu­dents, they'll meet and ex­ceed those ex­pec­ta­tions.”

He re­quired the full at­ten­tion of stu­dents in class and dur­ing re­hearsals, which were in­tense and mu­sic-cen­tred. Parental sup­port and a great par­ent group helped him to achieve his goals as a mu­sic teacher.

“We asked stu­dents to buy in and they did,” he said. “I don't know what I did in par­tic­u­lar, other than be­ing very in­tense and have high ex­pec­ta­tions, but I think in the long run they un­der­stand that.”

A trip to Chicago in De­cem­ber 1977 to at­tend the mid­west band and or­ches­tra con­fer­ence had a de­ci­sive in­flu­ence on his ca­reer as a mu­sic ed­u­ca­tor.

“I re­mem­ber sit­ting down there and say­ing they don't look any dif­fer­ent than my kids back home, so what's the dif­fer­ence there, and I re­al­ized that I was the dif­fer­ence,” he re­called. “So if I up my game, they will fol­low, and if I up my game again, they will fol­low. So I think that was a piv­otal mo­ment for me in say­ing those kids in In­di­ana don't look any dif­fer­ent from the kids I have home in Saskatchew­an. It's my job to up my game and so I did train­ing, I went back to do a masters de­gree, went to con­fer­ences, start teach­ing a jazz camp and learn­ing from some­body like Gord Foote, who was at McGill Uni­ver­sity.”

The Se­nior Wind Or­ches­tra and Se­nior Jazz En­sem­ble at Swift Cur­rent Com­pre­hen­sive High School re­ceived many awards un­der McLean's di­rec­tion, in­clud­ing gold medals at Mu­sicFest Canada in 1993, 1995 and 1998. The Wind Or­ches­tra was in­vited to per­form guest show­case con­certs at the Rocky Moun­tain Fes­ti­val in 1996, 1997, 2007 and 2009 and at the Moose Jaw In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val in 1999 and 2003. The Se­nior Jazz En­sem­ble was fea­tured in a show­case con­cert at the Rocky Moun­tain Fes­ti­val in 2008.

He has con­trib­uted to mu­sic de­vel­op­ment in the prov­ince as a fac­ulty mem­ber of the Prairielan­d Jazz Camp in Regina and as a clin­i­cian and con­duc­tor at SBA band camps. He has been an ad­ju­di­ca­tor at mu­sic fes­ti­vals across Canada and he has con­ducted hon­our bands in Al­berta, Saskatchew­an, Man­i­toba and Prince Edward Is­land.

He was a char­ter mem­ber when the SBA was es­tab­lished in 1983 and he has served on the board of direc­tors in var­i­ous roles, in­clud­ing trea­surer, vice pres­i­dent and pres­i­dent. In 2016 he served as the SBA in­terim ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for just over six months.

He has re­ceived a num­ber of awards dur­ing his ca­reer. In 2001 the Swift Cur­rent Ro­tary Club pre­sented him with the Paul Har­ris Fel­low­ship for out­stand­ing lead­er­ship and com­mu­nity work with young peo­ple. In 2006, he was the re­cip­i­ent of the Saskatchew­an Mu­sic Ed­u­ca­tors As­so­ci­a­tion's Out­stand­ing Achieve­ment Award, and he was nom­i­nated for the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor's Lead­er­ship in the Arts Award.

McLean for­mally re­tired as a mu­sic teacher in 2010, but he has re­mained mu­si­cally ac­tive. He con­tin­ued to teach pri­vately un­til last spring and he has con­tin­ued to par­tic­i­pate in jazz or band camps. He formed the Swift Cur­rent Jazz Or­ches­tra in 2015 and he is still the en­sem­ble's artis­tic direc­tor.

He is the co-artis­tic direc­tor and or­ches­tra con­duc­tor for the Swift Cur­rent Ora­to­rio Choir, and dur­ing the choir's an­nual spring con­cert he con­ducts mem­bers of the Regina Sym­phony Or­ches­tra and soloists.

Photo con­trib­uted

Greg McLean re­ceived the SBA 2018 Dis­tin­guished Band Direc­tor Award in Regina, Dec. 4. Stand­ing with him is his wife, Marcia, who is the artis­tic direc­tor of the Swift Cur­rent Ora­to­rio Choir and the Prairie Spirit cham­ber choir.

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