Spring Lake Park High School in Minnesota has a national reputation for innovation and inclusivity. They are also breaking barriers this spring by becoming one of the first high school bands to tour Cuba. Co-directors Nora Tycast and Brian Lukkasson have been featured on NPR, The Washington Post, and MPR thanks to their unyielding effort to program excellent music written by composers of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Their famous Composer Wall now features a talented composer from Leading Tones Music!
Before departing on their international trip, their March 4 concert featured a premiere performance of Sky Macklay’s X+X=?, an alto sax and French horn double concerto for mixed ability levels.
Like all Leading Tones Music composers, Sky Macklay was happy to share some personalized insights about her life, career, and composition strategies with the Spring Lake Park band students (video below). A nationally-celebrated composer of modern music, Macklay said of her concerto, “I really like writing music that uses math or processed-based composition, so I just thought of the simplest mathematical formula I could think of: adding. First, I introduced the themes in both instruments, and then I combined them in different ways: totally on top of each other, with shorter motives from each melody, and adding them together.” How about that for an interdisciplinary approach to music-making! Of the mixed-level music concept, Sky expressed, “I really like writing music that brings people together, so I’m really excited that this piece brings together a more advanced band with perhaps soloists who are more beginners.”
Band director Nora Tycast expressed that Sky Macklay’s personalized video clip “completely personalizes the composition for the students and for us [music educators].” Her band director colleague Brian Lukkasson agrees, "It is so important to get composers’ voices and stories in rehearsals and for students ‘meet’ the composers of their music. X+X=? is such a creative and intellectual piece that is also really accessible and enjoyable for students and an audience. That’s a tough balance to strike!"