Editor, McLerran Journal
Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wilds in May 2017 when he visited Center Middle School to work with our middle school bands on a few of his pieces. The most interesting thing that he said to our students was about making the musical experience special since “music is a temporary art” that changes with every performance.
Originally from Temple, TX, Jack Wilds is an American composer, clinician, and educator. At the age of only 31, he has already achieved international recognition for his compositions, several of which have been performed at state educators’ conferences around the United States, at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the International Trombone Festival, and the Slider Asia Clinic in Hong Kong. Wilds holds a Bachelor of Music Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Music Composition from Texas State University in San Marcos, where he is currently a Lecturer for music theory. He also serves as the Director of Music for the First Presbyterian Church in San Marcos and publishes his music with the FJH Music Company. Previously, Wilds was the Assistant Band Director for both Kealing Middle School (Austin ISD) and Hays High School (Hays ISD).
The product of a musical family, Wilds shared that there was “never much of a question whether [he] was going to join band or not.” He selected the trombone and found a particular enjoyment as a member of his high school’s concert band, directed by Brent Colwell, and the jazz band, directed by Jon McPhail. The jazz ensemble even received an invitation to perform at Lincoln Center in the 2004 Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival in New York. Wilds reminisced about the unbelievable excitement of playing “a jam session with Wynton Marsalis” and experiencing a new place with his classmates. His love of energetic music and driving beats are apparent in works like Across the Serengeti*, “a musical portrait of the grassy plains of Africa.”
With the majority of his musical experiences taking place in a band setting, it is no surprise that the majority of Wild’s works are for wind ensemble, although he has also written for chamber groups and choirs. His notable works for wind ensemble include Bravado Tango* and Spellbound, which have both been performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, as well as five works which received the honor of being listed on the “BandWorld Top 100” in BandWorld Magazine; Whirling Novas*, Solstice Dance, Foiled Again, Laniakea and Viva! In addition to this success, he has written two extremely popular works for trombone choir; Leviathan (performed at the 2013 International Trombone Festival) and an arrangement of Tchesnekoff’s Salvation is Created (recorded by the University of Texas Trombone Choir).
About the importance of a composer’s ability to play an instrument, Wilds shared that it’s infinitely “more important to have a comprehensive understanding of the limitations of each instrument” and to be able to write works that are “idiomatic and age-appropriate” for the target grade level. He points out that the famous French composer Hector Berlioz did not play the piano, as did most of his contemporaries, and that it perhaps contributed to his unique style since he was possibly “focusing more on the individual lines.” Unlike several podium-shy composers, Wilds shared that it does not bother him to conduct his own works at region band clinics or convention concerts. He enjoys the opportunity to “share [his] own interpretation of the work,” but also does not mind acting as the observer since another conductor’s musical ideas are likely to create “a totally different experience.”
To aspiring composers, Wilds advises listening “to as much music as possible” and taking every opportunity to “get your hands on a score.” He highly recommends attempting to “reverse engineer,” or deconstruct, musical phrases and techniques from other composers’ works that sound appealing. He describes this experience as receiving “a mini composition lesson” from that person. As the famous maxim goes, good artists copy, but great artists steal. Currently, Wilds lives in Kyle, TX, with his family and plans to simply “keep writing.” This month, he can be found at the New Music on the Bayou Festival in Monroe, LA. Wilds will be giving a talk about his saxophone solo, which will be performed on one of the concerts.
*The CISD students loved putting together these three pieces for the 2017 spring concert.
Follow Jack Wilds at http://www.jackwildsmusic.com
“Note Grouping” James Morgan Thurmond
Interview March 4, 2018.
Jack Wilds Music. About Jack. N.p. N.d. Web. 4 March, 2018.
BandWorld Magazine. (2018). ABC- Bandworld- WIBC Top 100. Web. 4 March, 2018.
Barzun, Jacques. (2018). Hector Berlioz. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. 24, March 2018.