Local composer writes piece for Air Force Band

February 21, 2005|by JANET HEIM

When Hagerstown composer Michael Mogensen got the call that his composition "Sierra Dawn" was awarded the 2004 Colonel Gabriel Composition Award from the U.S. Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., he admits he was speechless - at least for a few minutes.

The award meant the Air Force Band would perform the piece Sunday at 3 p.m. at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., and eventually make a studio-quality professional recording of "Sierra Dawn."

In addition, Mogensen, 31, a 1991 graduate of North Hagerstown High School, has received a follow-up commission to write an original work within the coming year to be premiered by the U.S. Air Force Band. Mogensen describes it as the chance to break into the "professional ensemble world," for which he patiently has been waiting.


"Sierra Dawn," commissioned for the 2003 All-County High School Band by Rob Hovermale, coordinator of visual and performing arts for Washington County Public Schools, and the Washington County Board of Education, was well-received when performed at The Maryland Theatre during that performance. Mogensen played his French horn during the band's premiere of the composition.

It has since been performed by the Hagerstown Municipal Band, the Baltimore County and Montgomery County High School Honor Bands, as well as a high school band in Parkersburg, W.Va. Musicians at James Madison University will play it in April, Mogensen said.

This year's All-County High School Orchestra, under the direction of Guest Conductor Elizabeth Schulze, conductor of the Maryland Symphony, also performed the debut of another Mogensen original, "Quest for the Grail," at its concert in January. The piece also was commissioned by Hovermale and the Washington County Board of Education.

In all, Mogensen has written six compositions for full band or orchestra, and other songs and smaller pieces, he said. He adds that he's not a prolific composer, instead preferring to take his time to "try to make each one special."

Mogensen became acquainted with Harlan Parker, conductor of The Peabody Wind Ensemble and coordinator of the Music Education Division at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, because Parker was guest conductor for the 2003 All-County High School Honor Band. As a result, the two have become friends and Mogensen said Parker has helped him a lot.

An original band composition written by Mogensen, "Afterglow: Light Still Shining," will be performed at Peabody in the future. Mogensen wrote it in memory of Robert Grab, a trumpeter, teacher and friend who died at the age of 43.

As for the recognition "Sierra Dawn" has received, Mogensen said, "It's nice to reach that goal and have some doors open for me."

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