Gene Rauscher, MME
Director, Oasis Concert Band
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste…
Ok, I’ll stop stealing from Mick Jagger. I really don’t have the moves to pull it off. I do have wealth, in friendships and experience, and I would like to think my taste in music is far reaching and open minded.
I graduated from McCluer High School in North St. Louis County in 1970. I did not realize at the time that I had experienced a world class music program developed by the music educators of the Ferguson-Florissant School District. I believed everyone learned how to sight-sing like the children in Ferguson, from first grade forward; I believed music study was full of joy; I thought everyone who went to college to study music would have a solid background in theory before they arrived. I was, in a word, a hot-shot high school musician, full of assumptions, full of myself, and ready to take on the world. My world got very small in a hurry, and not just because Central Methodist College was in a ridiculously small town in ruthlessly rural Howard County, Missouri. That small school was, and still is, a powerhouse of music education training, with incredibly high expectations of its students and a deep tradition of musical excellence that transcended who I thought I was.
Now, to be honest, I was not alone in this revelation. I attended this school in Fayette with four very confident and equally arrogant high school friends, with the largest contingent of students from any high school in the state. When I showed up for my audition in the spring of 1970 the band director had no idea I was coming. By the time my audition was over he was babbling like a baby at the possibilities. That is how my ego likes to remember the story. The next time he would babble over my skill was less pleasant. But that story is for another time.
The “McCluer Five” were welcomed by the Director of Bands, Professor Paul Montemurro, a man with a fiery disposition that prevented any semblance of control over his passion. He pulled no punches when he offered his very public and barbaric critical observations of our work. He was a lion-tamer, teaching music with a whip and a gun and a chair. Professor Montemurro also tossed in the occasional grenade. You never knew what might set him off, and there were land mines scattered about as well. There was one incongruity in his make-up, however, and while I have often ‘forgotten’ this part when regaling fellow music educators with my stories of him, Paul Montemurro loved us deeply, and always made sure we knew and believed he was here for us. The school and the ensembles were here for us. Not for him, not for the greater glory of Central Methodist College, or Fayette, Missouri. For us: Every student in the Swinney Conservatory of Music.
There is an old saw in music ed circles. We get them to the university, train them the best we can, give them all the knowledge, skill and best practices, cut them loose after graduation… and they teach like their high school band directors. This is mostly true. Paul Montemurro was one of the most influential college professors in my student days. His successor came in my junior year, and could not have been more unlike Prof. Montemurro. Gentle and soft-spoken, Keith House is a giant in the history of Missouri music education. His mentoring skills are unmatched by most educators in general, and the stream of highly successful music education professionals he produced is beyond impressive. I’ll have more to say about him in future postings as his influences on my career are shared. So, too, will be the considerable contributions of my high school band director, Mr. Ron Frede. Gentle like Prof. House, “Uncle Ron” became a formidable tyrant when pushed too far by teenagers resisting his even-tempered expectation of excellence. I believe my approach to leading a band follows that path more closely, but without the part where the Incredible Hulk shows up. I have been known to flare my nostrils a bit, however.
So, that is my undergraduate musical heritage, the foundation of my music education pedigree, if you will. The most important underlying tenet of my musical training lies with the most volatile individual, the least likely candidate to have engendered such a philosophy, Paul Montemurro.
The Oasis ensemble I lead, The Concert Band, already knows that I believe the ensemble exists for them; I am here for them. Oasis exists for the people who choose to participate in its programs. That my personal philosophy is right in line with this is not some marvelous coincidence: It is the logical expectation of organizations and individuals dedicated to the service of others. I hope folks in my group are learning. I pray they practice. More than this, I love that they persevere. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be of service to them, and to Oasis.
Once we get past the currently quarantined condition of our lives, I plan to be there for my people. There is still a lot of music to make, and when we do it, we do it with joy. It’s a world class experience, and I hope everyone knows that.
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