Piece of the Week: Blue Ridge Impressions by Brian Balmages

Blue Ridge Impressions

Composer Brian Balmages is well known by band and orchestra conductors for his ability to create engaging and beautiful music that fits the programming needs and skill levels of ensembles from middle school to collegiate. He is a busy conductor and prolific composer, fulfilling new commissions and conducting performances of his pieces with bands and orchestras across the country, all the while serving as the director of instrumental publications for the FJH Music Company. Here at SmartMusic we are fans and supporters of Balmages’ work, and we have a large and growing number of his pieces available in SmartMusic for your ensemble to use (seventy-five pieces as of this writing, with more in development). Balmages recently spoke with MakeMusic’s own Scott Yoho about his compositional philosophy and why he never feels limited by the task of composing for young bands; you can click here to read that interview. For a taste of Balmages’ uplifting musical style, give a listen to Blue Ridge Impressions, a piece that musically portrays the grandeur of the Appalachian mountains.

Audio Sample:

Audio performed by The Washington Pops, The Washington Winds and/or The Studio A Big Band, Conducted by Edward S. Petersen. (P) Studio Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Composition Notes:

Blue Ridge Impressions is named after the magnificent mountain range that passes through Virginia’s Albemarle County. The piece follows the path of a single drop of water as it begins at the top of a mountain and embarks on its long journey downward. After a powerful introduction, a simple melody is introduced and developed. The piece becomes more joyous as it mimics the drop of water dancing its way down the mountain. We eventually find ourselves in a calm stream, leisurely floating along. This slow section attempts to capture the mood of such a trip with its occasional bumps and dips. Energy begins to build as the water becomes rougher with the approach of a final waterfall that sends us cascading to the bottom of the mountain.

Composer Biography:

Brian Balmages (b. 1975) is an award-winning composer, conductor, producer, and performer. He received his bachelor’s degree in music from James Madison University and his master’s degree from the University of Miami in Florida. Mr. Balmages’ compositions have been performed worldwide at conferences including the College Band Directors National Conference, the Midwest Clinic, American String Teachers Association National Conference, and the international trumpet, horn, trombone and tuba/euphonium conferences. His active schedule of commissions and premieres has incorporated groups ranging from elementary schools to professional ensembles, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Boston Brass, members of the United States Marine Band, and the Dominion Brass Ensemble. His music has been performed by members of leading orchestras including the St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, and others. He has also enjoyed world premieres in prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, as well as performances at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade.

As a conductor, Mr. Balmages enjoys engagements with numerous all-state and regional honor bands and orchestras along with university and professional groups. Notable guest conducting appearances have included the Midwest Clinic, Western International Band Clinic, College Band Directors Eastern Regional Conference, and MENC. Additional conducting appearances have included the Kennedy Center and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. He has also served as an adjunct professor of instrumental conducting and Acting Symphonic Band Director at Towson University in Maryland. Currently, Mr. Balmages is the Director of Instrumental Publications for The FJH Music Company Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at [email protected]. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

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