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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Legendary UA band director Gregg Hanson retires with a heavy heart after 26 years

    Courtesy of Mindi Acosta
    Gregg Hanson stands among the University of Arizona Wind Ensemble on Feb. 11.

    After 26 years of wind band conducting at the UA, band director Gregg Hanson will lower his baton and retire at the end of the year. I had the opportunity to interview Hanson about his musical life and how teaching has changed him, culminating in his final performance with the UA Wind Ensemble.

    Daily Wildcat: How has the UA changed from when you first arrived?

    Gregg Hanson: We used to have a lot more money, the campus has expanded and become more diverse and become a more interesting place to be. I hope in [the] future we have more financial support from the state, because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for students to come to school.

    What are some of the greatest lessons students have taught you over the years?

    They’ve taught me to be more aware of societal changes, the influence of electronics on their lives and their changing mentalities. They taught me a lot about myself, how to be more patient, thoughtful and clear. They’ve become more politically correct, overly sensitive and they don’t want to hear the truth. I’ve always been someone who speaks the truth.

    I think students have been raised in an overprotective way, but once they get over it and they understand that it’s for their achievement, they accept and appreciate it. The results of what they do are the measure of their success.

    When people don’t speak out, they’re living a lie.

    Why did you choose the two pieces for your final concert?

    They’re two of my favorite pieces. Period. I wanted to feature the wind faculty that I’ve come to adore. David Maslanka’s second symphony was the first Maslanka piece I performed, and he has been a huge influence, personally and musically. I don’t think I could retire without him.

    How has the [UA] Wind Ensemble been shaping up with it?

    Despite little preparation time, they’re doing really well. It’s going to be a dazzling, highly energized performance.

    How does having the composer in the rehearsals affect the ensemble?

    As the composer is creator, and he knows what the music is and what [it] means, having him in the room gives the ensemble an idea of the depth and meaning to the piece. I become a lightning rod to the creative energy of the composer and the ensemble becomes hungry for that energy.

    Do you get different results with each iteration of Maslanka’s music that you play?

    Yes, because each ensemble is different and brings different strengths and weaknesses to the table. And no, because David has a very clear idea of his music. Some composers like giving their ensembles freedom, but David is not that way, which is what makes him so wonderful to work with.

    Why should individuals with no or little musical background come to this concert?

    They need to be exposed to music that aims higher. So many people don’t know that there’s great food or art or music, and this is an opportunity to start enhancing their lives. People don’t come to the Fred Fox School of Music to be entertained, they come to be uplifted.

    I think some people are intimidated by things they don’t understand, but I think it’s important for people to know that they don’t have to understand great music to respond to it. They just have to be present and open and focused on it; not distracted, but really listen and just let it do what it does.

    What will you miss most about teaching and why?

    The students, because I love them. They’re bright, funny and challenging, and hungry and curious. It’s great fun to be an influence on their learning process.

    If there’s one thing you’d like students to know, what would it be?

    It would be to not hesitate to follow their passion. They need to identify what they really love and let that guide them. Their passions can open doors. If they believe in more than making money, then they need to follow that path and see where it takes them.

    Things change, and people need to be open to that. People need to have direction so they know how to respond to change.

    “The UA Wind Ensemble: A Celebration of the Career of Gregg Hanson” will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Crowder Hall at the Fred Fox School of Music. Tickets are $5 for students.

    Follow Kincaid Rabb on Twitter.

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