On March 21, 2009, James Madison University (JMU) alumni from across the country traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia to present a surprise concert of trumpet music honoring the retirement of trumpet professor James Kluesner. The event, organized by composer / conductor Brian Balmages and the Kluesner family, was held near campus at Harrisonburg Baptist Church. Kluesner, believing he was coming to the church to observe a rehearsal of one student, was surprised by a hall filled with friends, family, and trumpet students (current and alumni), representing three decades of his studio.
The concert consisted of a variety of selections by soloists and trumpet ensembles. Matthew Vangjel, a 2004 graduate of JMU and current DMA student at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, performed selections from Seven Spanish Folksongs by Manuel de Falla. Michael Myers, a freelance trumpet player in the Chicago area and 1994 graduate of JMU, performed Arthur Honegger’s Intrada. Benjamin Fairfield, a current DMA student at the University of Miami and 1998 graduate of JMU, performed Quatre Variations sur un thème de Domenico Scarlatti by Marcel Bitsch. The final individual performer was United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” lead/commercial trumpet soloist, Ken McGee, a 1991 graduate of JMU. McGee played his own transcription of War and Peace by Jon Faddis.
The concert also featured a number of works for trumpet ensemble. Choirs of varying forces were assembled from the numerous attending JMU alumni including Susan Allen (’89, ’99), Brian Balmages (’98), Kristen Calohan (’02), Brett Dodson (’04), Jason Dovel (’03), Benjamin Fairfield (’98), Nick Harvey (’03), Anne Kovarik (’06), Logan Massey (’04), Ken McGee (’91), Michael Myers (’94), Tim Shaffer (’89), Matthew Vangjel (’04), and Jeremy Walmer (’02). Ensemble works performed included Concerto for Seven Trumpets and Timpani by Johann Ernst Altenberg, Suite for Five Trumpets by Ronald Lo Presti, The Last Spring by Edward Grieg / arr. Horton, and Suite for Six Trumpets by Anthony Plog. The final piece on the concert was a world premiere of Soundings (for Mass Trumpet Ensemble and Timpani), composed by Brian Balmages specifically for this event. About fifty trumpet current and former students filled the stage in this celebratory work for three choirs of trumpets. Assisting in the concert were J.R. Snow, timpani and Amy Robertson, piano.
Following the concert, all guests were invited to a reception at the Kluesner residence. Current JMU students presented him with a slideshow of photographs including JMU trumpet students past and present.
James Kluesner joined the music faculty of James Madison University in 1981 following several years in Germany, where he served as principal trumpet with the Orchestra of the State Theater of Hessen in Wiesbaden, Germany and the Symphony Orchestra of Schleswig-Holstein in Flensburg, Germany. He also taught at Akademie fur Tonkunst in Darmstadt, Germany, and the Wiesbaden Conservatory. He formerly taught at Bemidji State University in Minnesota. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree from Northwestern University. He has received numerous honors, including the 1999-2000 Carl Harter Distinguished Teaching Award at JMU.
James Kluesner at JMU - www.jmu.edu/music/faculty_areas/brass/trumpet.html
Video from live performance of Soundings (for Mass Trumpet Ensemble and Timpani) by Brian Balmages - www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n0OC4ncZBc
Brian Balmages - www.brianbalmages.com
Pictures top to bottom: 1) performance of Soundings, 2) Kluesner thanking everyone, 3) performance of Grieg's Last Spring set for trumpet ensemble
Source: Jason Dovel, DMA
Assistant Professor of Trumpet
Northeastern State University Tahlequah, Oklahoma