TOWN OF TONAWANDA — If you’ve ever watched the end of the “The Incredibles” or any number of other Hollywood hits you’ve heard music arranged or conducted by Gordon Goodwin.
And if you’re at Kenmore East High School auditorium Thursday you’ll hear the world-premiere of a brand-new piece of music by Goodwin, written specially for the Kenmore East Jazz Band as the winners of a contest to promote his newest CD release.
Goodwin will take the stage with the Ken East band to perform “I’m Cooler Than I Look (A Band Geek’s Credo),” followed by a performance of the Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band, with Goodwin also taking part in a few songs. The whole concert is a culmination of many months of work — and just a little bit of luck.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Ken-East band director Phil Aguglia. “You enter a lot of things, but you never really expect to win. This is a big deal.”
“The whole thing’s been surreal ... having a phone conversation with Gordon Goodwin,” Aguglia said. “He called and said, ‘You won. We want to talk a little about your program so I can write something.’ A few weeks later, there’s a package in the mail with a chart he wrote for us.”
While the band has reaped the benefits, the actual winner of the contest was Joel Snitzer, whose daughter Andrea was a choral student at Ken East prior to graduating. She now studies music education in college. When he received an email sent from Aguglia to past and present “music parents,” informing them of the contest, he entered it on behalf of the school and didn’t give it another thought.
“It doesn’t hurt to try,” he said. “I never expected to win, and it was quite a shock when I got the email. I thought, ‘Is this for real?’
“I’m really happy I could do this for them. It’s a major coup for Ken East.”
The contest, conducted by Telarc International in conjunction with Alfred Music Publishing, was in honor of the release of Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s newest release, “That’s How We Roll.”
In addition to the custom arrangement, every student in the band program — 120 students — won a copy of the CD and a copy of a Goodwin music play-along book, as well as the visit by Goodwin to work on the arrangement.
During the day Thursday, the artist will also be providing clinics for band students, followed by a master class working on the original piece from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. that is open to the public, Aguglia said.
While the contest covered most of the expenses — the custom arrangement alone would have cost thousands of dollars, Aguglia said — it didn’t cover the concert itself, the master class and many incidentals. It’s taken months of fundraising, but the students and band program managed to come up with almost $7,000, worth of donations to pay for the experience.
Junior Kimberly Potfora, a member of the band, said that while the last few months have been “financially insane,” the response was amazing.
“It was a team effort,” she said. “It was really awarding to see it.”
Goodwin himself has 13 career Grammy nominations with two wins — one for Best Instrumental Arrangement in 2006 for his work on “The Incredibles” and one in 2012 for an arrangement of George Gershwin’s classic “Rhapsody in Blue” ... a piece both included on the new CD and to be performed by the Army Jazz Ambassadors on Thursday.
That group’s inclusion in the story came from a random phone call after the contest win. The school had hosted the Army Field Band in November and was being given the chance to host the military’s premier jazz ensemble as well. Aguglia put the pieces together and came up with Thursday’s concert.
The school’s jazz band will be using the Jazz Ambassadors’ equipment for two songs, including the new arrangement, and some of that group will sit in on the songs. Students will also get the opportunity to sit in with that group during its performance, Aguglia said.
“That’s so unusual,” he said. “They never let anyone use their equipment. They’ve been just fabulous to work with.”
For their part, his students are getting excited about the prospect.
“From my experience with the the Army bands, it’s going to be an amazing experience,” said junior Michael Christie. “It’s going to be eye-opening as to what music really is.”
Sophomore Derek Baker said he’s looking forward to the master class.
“It’s exciting to be able to play a piece and have the composer come in and show you how it’s meant to be,” he said.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Army Jazz Ambassadors with Gordon Goodwin and the Kenmore East band
• WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
• WHERE: Kenmore East High School auditorium, 350 Fries Road, Town of Tonawanda
• FOR TICKETS: Call 874-8402 or visit armyfieldband.com/tickets.