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Quills & Queues: Band season includes Harry Potter, ‘Ecstatic Waters’

Dan Kocurek is the musical director and conductor of the often-overlooked Rogue Valley Symphonic Band, which will celebrate its 30th year of music in the Rogue Valley this season. I caught up with Kocurek to chat about his passions and ambitions.

JG: Dan, tell us a little bit about your musical passions — the composers and artists who have influenced you, the work you most admire, etc.

DK: My main passion is to connect people with the music that I love. So often, classical and jazz music are presented without any explanation whatsoever, as if the music is going to automatically speak to every soul in the audience. I love to use different methods of connection and communication to help the audience experience and understand why they should care about what they’re about to hear, as well as give them the opportunity to connect with it personally. I have been profoundly impacted by many artists, from musical giants Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Mahler and Schubert, to the more minimal modern stylings of Olafur Arnalds, Lambert, Dardust, and Nils Frahm.

JG: How did you come to be in Southern Oregon and involved with the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band?

DK: I am originally from Klamath Falls, where I was born and raised. I’m still the only person in my family to have gone to college. Before I came to Ashland, I was based in Vancouver, Canada, where I was freelancing, touring and playing in a number of professional orchestras. Long story short, I received a phone call one evening from Terry Longshore, asking me if I would be interested in teaching trumpet, jazz, and music theory at (Southern Oregon Univeristy). My wife, Christine Eggert, and I decided this was a good move. Upon moving here, I played a trumpet solo arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band. Soon thereafter, I got word of an opening for artistic director. I was fortunate to win the position.

JG: What does the RVHB have planned for its upcoming season?

DK: This will be the RVSB’s 30th season, and I believe we have really developed into something special these last few years. This is the arguably the most proficient band stretching from south of Redding to north of Eugene, and the band can play anything. In the fall, we have an exciting Harry Potter-inspired concert titled “Goblins, Phantoms, and Wizards, Oh My!” On this concert, we’re collaborating with the folks at Paddington Station to create a fun experience for kids and adults alike. Our second concert, titled “Ecstatic Waters,” promises to be a stunning aural and visual experience, with the wind ensemble combining with electronic sounds and unconventional lighting to create a lasting impression. Our spring concert with be our inaugural Jim Collier Young Artist Competition, where we’ll introduce the Valley’s newest young talent, along with music by John Williams and Aaron Copland, and other colorful pieces of Americana.

JG: How do you feel the classical music scene in the Rogue Valley can fare better?

DK: Collaboration. The most glaring thing I’ve seen since I moved here is the lack of true and extensive collaboration between arts organizations. We have a number of amazing individual organizations here: The Rogue Valley Symphony, Britt, The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SOU’s Oregon Center for the Arts, the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, Chamber Music Concerts, the Tutunov Piano Series, the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band, and the list goes on. However, it seems like each organization tends to its own garden, so to speak. I think that so much more could be made of the scene here in the valley if the organizations could find creative ways to work with one other to raise the tide for all boats. SOU in particular has so much to offer, but not everyone knows how much talent works in our music building.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

Photo by by Christopher BriscoeDan Kocurek