Dr. David Vroman considered becoming an engineer, or maybe an architect. He even dabbled in art from time to time. But he realized that if he chose any of those paths there would be a point when he would have to give up his music. In the end, music was just too important to him, and he made the decision to pursue a career in music.
Today, Dr. Vroman is the Chairperson of the Bradley Department of Music where he also serves as a Professor of Music and Horns and the Director of Bands. During the summer he also directs the Peoria Municipal Band.
Dr. Vroman is a product of Central Illinois. He grew up in East Peoria and developed a love for music while playing the French horn in band. Having made the decision to pursue music as a career, he attended Western Illinois University where he received a bachelor of science degree in music education. After graduation, he taught band and choir for several years at the Pinckneyville Community High School in Southern Illinois where his marching band and concert band consistently received superior ratings. Dr. Vroman received his masters in music education in 1988 and completed his doctorate in music education in 1994, both from the University of Illinois.
The audience’s view of a director is vastly different from that of a musician in the band. The audience only hears the finished performance, and it might appear that the director’s role is just to help the musicians all start playing in unison. But the director’s work starts long before the performance. “The performance is the shortest and quickest part of the process” says Dr. Vroman, “but it’s the part that makes all of the other work worthwhile.”
For Dr. Vroman, the challenge starts with the most important aspect – selecting the music for a performance. He has to find music that he enjoys, the band enjoys, and the audience enjoys. He describes it as “music that’s worth playing again.” He can’t simply choose five pieces he likes. The pieces need to fit well together, considering key, tempo, spirit and style. As Dr. Vroman says, “It’s much the same way you choose your clothes so that they match and make sense.”
He starts the process by spreading out the first pages of each piece on a table so that he can understand how they fit together. A performance should have periods of information giving, and periods of building tension followed by a release. “Think of ebb and flow, the ups and downs” he says. His goal is to prepare a program so that “at the end of the program, people feel good about having been there.”
Managing the logistics of the seating and rehearsing a band is also part of the director’s role. Once the pieces are chosen, he needs to prepare a rehearsal plan. Though Dr. Vroman doesn’t have perfect pitch, he does have good relative pitch and uses his sight-singing skills to sing every part in the score, “everything from the flute to the 3rd clarinet part.”
Then there’s the process of preparing the players. As the director, his goal is to shape the performance by helping the musicians come together as a group. Dr. Vroman also teaches individual lessons through Bradley University and privately. It’s a process of “diagnosis and cure.” He will frequently record rehearsals so that he can review the session in more detail to make the best decisions about where best to allocate rehearsal time.
When all of the hours and hours of preparation are complete, the band is finally ready for a performance that may only last 60 to 90 minutes. When it all comes together well, “the audience leaves feeling refreshed and looking forward to the next performance.” And that’s how Dr. Vroman knows the performance was successful.
For more information about Dr. Vroman and the Bradley University Department of Music, visit www.slane.bradley.edu/music. You can also learn more about the Peoria Municipal Band and see their concert schedule at www.peoriamunicipalband.com.