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Clear Spring music man has performed for presidents

November 16, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

CLEAR SPRING -- Neal Corwell plays several instruments, but his preferred musical tool is the euphonium.

During the last several decades, there haven't been many compositions that give the euphonium a chance to shine, so the Clear Spring resident pursued another of his life's ambitions, writing music.

Performing and composing have provided him with more options as a euphonium player, more work as a composer, and the opportunity to attend major events and meet famous people.

As a member of the U.S. Army Band Pershing's Own and the Army's Herald Trumpets, Corwell performed at President Obama's inauguration, at the 2005 Super Bowl and with the Boston Pops on July 4 at the Mall in Washington, D.C. And he's met Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

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After performing "Fanfare for the Common Man" with the Herald Trumpets during the opening of the Lincoln Memorial concert for Obama in January, Corwell said he heard a compliment as he came off stage: "Great 'Fanfare.'" The comment came from Tom Hanks.

"I'm very pleased that I've had all these opportunities," Corwell said. "I feel like the hard work paid off."

More than 50 of Corwell's compositions have been published.

Two of his works premiered in October.

The Appalachian Wind Quintet performed "Passages" at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the U.S. Army Band Tuba Euphonium Quartet, which included Corwell, performed "FTR," also known as "Feel the Rage," in Washington, D.C.

"FTR" is an aggressive, "in-your-face" piece, while "Passages" has a lot of rhythmic energy and gives each member of the ensemble a chance to shine, Corwell said.

"If I'm writing my own piece, I can tailor it to whatever the aesthetic feel is," he said.

Corwell, 50, started playing trumpet at age 10 while at Clear Spring Elementary School.

In addition to school lessons, he took private lessons and practiced every day.

While a student at Clear Spring High School, Corwell was asked by Noel Kunkle, band director at the time, to play the euphonium.

"That was fine with me. I liked it," Corwell said.

Corwell didn't have the proper embouchure, or mouth positioning, for the trumpet's mouthpiece, Kunkle said. The euphonium has a bigger mouthpiece.

"Neal has become one of the finest euphonium players in the world, and I feel honored that I was in the right place in the right time to suggest the change," said Kunkle, of Williamsport.

Corwell auditioned for and earned a job with Pershing's Own while he was a senior at then-Frostburg State College. Pershing's Own is a ceremonial band whose duties include performing at funerals at Arlington (Va.) National Cemetery, and at arrival and departure ceremonies for foreign dignitaries.

After his third enlistment, Corwell left the Army in 1989 for new challenges.

He worked as an adjunct college professor, composer and freelance musician.

"That's when I really started writing more pieces and doing more recitals," Corwell said.

He rejoined Pershing's Own in 2002.

When he isn't performing with the Army, Corwell gets rejuvenated at home, where his wife, Kathryn Sincell-Corwell, teaches voice and piano, and he composes in his home studio.

With an inspiring view of his father Max's beef farm, Corwell works on his own pieces or invites friends over for informal concerts.

"This is like a dream come true," Corwell said.

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