Thursday, October 25, 2018

"It's All Goodin"

As you can see from the poster above, next Monday my friends in the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra are celebrating the release of their new recording, titled "It's All Goodin", with a concert at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana. I am honored beyond words by the hard work that has gone into learning, performing and recording these pieces I have written over the years. I intend to be at the concert and, hopefully, I will play with the second mandolin section during the final number.

I know that the LMO intends to have the new CD available for purchase at the concert and I will try and let readers know how to buy the CD in a future blog post.

How did all of this start?

In May of 1988 I read an article in the Louisville Courier Journal with the headline "Mike Schroeder is dreaming of a classical mandolin orchestra." I was living in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the time but I knew Mike from his fine mandolin playing around the Louisville area.

I didn't know that Mike had been attending classical mandolin workshops around the country. I don't think that I knew these workshops even existed. I did know, however, that "classical" mandolin and mandolin orchestras had been common in the United States from around 1890-1920 and still flourished in parts of Europe and Japan. I was very interested in the possibility of a mandolin group being formed in Louisville.

I don't remember if I contacted Mike right away but I know that by the end of summer I was attending the early rehearsals of the LMO. Those first months were incredibly fun. I was playing my Flatiron octave mandolin in the mandola section of the group. I was able to read music fairly well but this was my first time playing in a group that big enough to need a conductor. The LMO was very fortunate to have Jim Bates take on the conductor's role and he worked wonders at bringing the group together.

I began writing songs in high school and by the 1980s I was writing a fair amount of instrumental music. After months of playing mandolin orchestra music I had the idea to arrange one of my tunes for mandolin orchestra. I showed this to Jim Bates and he was very encouraging and helpful. This piece was originally titled "Just a Minute" but, after development, I called it "Up River Road." It later became the first movement of "The Louisville Suite."

In March of 1989 the international mandolin virtuoso and teacher Keith Harris came to Louisville for a workshop and concert. Keith was wonderful to work with and, after hearing the LMO perform "Up River Road" at our concert, he also encouraged me to continue writing for mandolin orchestra. He went so far as to recommend my piece to the his friends at Trekel Musikverlag in Germany and it was eventually published by them. He also championed this piece and others of mine to orchestras in several countries.

The support and enthusiasm that the members of the LMO showed for my first efforts and the advice, counsel and encouragement that I received from Jim Bates and Keith Harris set me on the path of continuing to compose pieces for mandolin orchestra.

Now, almost 30 years later, I have continued to receive encouragement from members of the worldwide classical mandolin community, directors of mandolin orchestras and publishers of mandolin music. I have also been privileged to be a member of the Classical Mandolin Society of America for decades, attending many conventions and even serving on the Board of Directors.

When we moved to Iowa in 1994 I continued to write music for mandolins and, to date, I have composed nearly 25 pieces for plucked string ensembles. Several of these have been published by Trekel Musikverlag in Hamburg and a number of recordings have been made over the years by groups around the world. I am amazed at this attention and I am honored every time I am commissioned to compose a piece for a group or learn that one of my pieces is performed. To think that so many fine musicians will make the effort to learn music that I have written is humbling and gratifying.

The LMO has continued to flourish and has played my music regularly throughout its history. This new recording is in some ways a culmination of our relationship but I hope not a conclusion. There will be more music to come. So, many heartfelt thanks to the members of the Louisville Mandolin Orchestra, all of the other mandolin orchestra musicians and directors who have played my music and to every other musician who has taken the time to play one of my tunes! The Mandolin World is a special place and I am so fortunate to be a part of it.

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