Story by Michelle Hawks, Contributing writer
John Dressler, professor of music, was selected as a member of the French horn section for the orchestra of the 2017 Pennine Spring Festival in the West Yorkshire Dales, England.
The festival, which was founded in 1986, takes place annually at the end of May and lasts for one week. It coincides with England’s Bank Holiday. This year, the festival opens on May 29 with the first concert two days later.
“We’ll have a great deal of work from the start,” Dressler said.
He said they will premiere a work for the chorus and orchestra that week with the composer, from Lancaster, as the conductor.
Dressler said the one-week orchestral and choral gathering provides a challenging and inspiring environment for members to prepare for three concerts open to the general public. It also allows musicians from around the world to gather to rehearse and perform a wide range of repertoire in glorious surroundings, as well as get to know each other during a variety of social events.
He said singers and instrumentalists with a range of competence are welcome to participate on either a residential or a day-to-day basis. Singers are expected to feel comfortable with sight reading but should familiarize themselves with the music in advance. Instrumentalists are expected to play at minimum Associated Board Grade 7 for strings and minimum Grade 8 for wind players.
Dressler said his interest in the festival stems from the pride in featuring the music of 20th century British composers. Dressler has written books about some of these composers as part of his research activities, which has taken him to England on multiple occasions.
He said since he isn’t teaching summer school this year, he decided to contact Nick Concannon Hughes, music director of the festival. Dressler explained his interest in participating in the orchestra and included his research and orchestral experience.
Hughes wrote back, thanking Dressler for his interest in the festival, as well as sharing his enjoyment in the Yorkshire countryside. Hughes also informed him of an opening for the French horn section and said he would be pleased for Dressler to participate.
Amber Upton, senior music education major from Paris, Tennessee, had Dressler as a professor multiple times.
“He expects a lot from us, but he makes it fun,” Upton said.
She said he takes time out of his day to get to know his students and interact with them, both inside and outside of class.
“I’m definitely lucky that I had him in one of my first music classes,” Upton said. “It definitely started college off right.”
She said she remembers an email he sent to her while in his music theory class, congratulating her on her high grade and letting her know he was proud of the work she had done throughout the semester.
“I’ve never had another teacher do that,” Upton said.
She said it didn’t surprise her that he was selected to be in the orchestra—he is just that good at what he does.
“As a future educator and musician, he’s an example of what I want to be,” Upton said.