Cleveland Winds March 3, 2024 - Program Information


Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony Group 2

American Heritage - Ryan Nowlin

Infinity - Katahj Copley

Wind of Change - Peter Meechan

Blue and Green Music - Samuel Hazo

Blue Radiance - Nicole Piunno

Russian Sailor’s Dance (from The Red Poppy) - Reinhold Glière arr. Robert Longfieldt


The Cleveland Winds

Fantasia on Aura Lee - Ira Hearshen

Perpetua - Peter Meechan

DOPE! - Katahj Copley

The Cleveland Winds is a 503(c) non-profit tax-deductable organization, supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support the mission of the Cleveland Winds via PayPal.


Aura Lee is a folksong with deep roots in American life. First becoming popular in the mid-nineteenth century, the song has been sung at the West Point Military Academy since before the Civil War. At this venerable academy, it became known as The Army Blue. The music is attributed ot George R. Poulton and appears ot have existed at least as early as 1846. The song is usually reserved for sentimental occasions such as the last dance at West Point events or "Front and Center" at Graduation Parade.

With new lyrics by Vera Matson and Elvis Presley, the song was used in the 1956 film Love Me Tender, Presley's first movie, which was immensely popular. The "new" title song was to obscure the origins and traditions of Aura Lee for years to come.

This spectacular treatment by Ira Hearshen gives the simple and beautiful melody an astounding transformation. Brilliant scoring, intense emotional content and fantastical thematic development lend the tune a personality few would expect to hear. It is joyous, celebratory and triumphant, trumpeting in glorious fashion the heritage of American folksong and the pride of the United States Army cadets. It remains fresh and listenable, while demonstrating the contemporary harmonic, rhythmic and timbral command of the arranger.

Ira Hearshen (born 30 November 1948) received his B.M. degree from Wayne State University. Studio and other professional work as a trumpet player led to an opportunity in 1983 to work with Hollywood composer Joe Harnell on his two series (running concurrently) Cliffhangers and The Incredible Hulk. Since then, he has worked steadily as an arranger/orchestrator for motion pictures, television and recording, including assignments with such composers as Randy Newman, Lalo Schifrin, Lee Holdrige and others. His many film credits include scoring sequences from The Scorpion King, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2, which include the Sinatra-style arrangement of the movie's theme "You've Got A Friend In Me," written by Randy Newman and sung by Robert Goulet. Hearshen was also co-orchestrator for Monsters, Inc., including the Randy Newman song "If I Didn't Have You," for which Newman won the Oscar for best song in 2001. Hearshen's work for the concert stage include his Symphony on Themes of John Philip Sousa, a forty-five-minute, four-movement symphony nominated for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in music, Divertimento for Band, a Patriotic Overture and the present Fantasia on Aura Lee (Army Blue) to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the West Point Military Academy.

Hearshen believes that not only is the art of music arranging not dead as some would have us believe, but that it is in fact more alive than ever, as it is changing with the times in the new worlds of electronics, world music, computers, the internet and multi- media entertainment.

Perpetua was written in between two other works that deal with dark subject matters, Close to the Sun (written for a friend whose brother's life was lost tragically early) and let this place (a work that bridges the Holocaust, the current rise in anti-Semitism, and the current lack of humanity in society), I wanted -- and personally needed -- Perpetua to be something that was joyful, hopeful, energetic, exciting, and fun. In that Close to the Sun and let this place were reflections of what I saw around me in my community, Perpetua is the world I want to live in.

In writing Perpetua I wanted to compose a piece of perpetual motion, that is challenging, exciting, and fun -- all brought together through a sense of joy.

Perpetua was commissioned by Foothills Concert Band (Calgary, AB, Canada) and their conductor, Anthony Reimer.

  • Program Note by Peter Meechan

The first semester of my masters- I was in a different headspace. I had finished writing Where the Sky Has No Stars and at the moment I felt renewed. I didn’t know what else to write, so I began to write music that felt disingenuous to my spirit (music that will never see the light of day)- I was going on autopilot and I had lost my voice. During one of my lessons at UT Austin, my professor Omar Thomas and I began listening to a piece I had mocked up a couple of days before. We both weren’t feeling it, and finally I asked him to turn off the piece and I told him it didn’t sound like me. I felt lost creatively. He then asked me what music I listen to. I began to name only band music composers. He asked me again, and I told him outside of wind band music I’m in love with Rap, R & B, Jazz and Soul.

Then he asked an important question- “Why do you make a barrier between those ideals?”

I didn’t have an answer. It was a wake-up call for me. Why was I compartmentalizing my musical inspirations?

He continued, “If you create something that is a celebration of who you are, the music you grew up with, and the music that inspires you now… then that would be dope…”

And with that this piece was born. With that realization, I began to create a piece that celebrated all the music that had inspired me throughout my life. From Thundercat to Kendrick Lamar, Miles Davis to Hiatus Kaiyote, I wanted to bring all of these influences together into one cohesive dope work. DOPE is a gumbo of all the music that inspires and influences me from Thundercat to Kendrick Lamar to Miles Davis to Hiatus Kaiyote and more, this piece is in essence a deep look into my musical world.

The piece can be broken up into three parts. Since this work is dedicated to the trail black music has created, inspired and the new horizons it’s reaching, each part is named after a part of the black identity.

UNDENIABLY (which is the partial score) is the opening of the piece. It's gritty, intense with moments of color and undeniable energy. It is carried by a bass line heavily influenced by Thundercat's playing on Kendrick Lamar's Untitled 05 along with Miles Davis's Nardis.

UNAPOLOGETICALLY (the middle section) is a world building vibe and examines just how beautiful the music can be. I explore the colors and stretch them to their limits, but in doing so found new hues within myself and my writings. With this act, I gained heavy inspiration from John Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Hiatus Kaiyote (to name a few)

UNDISPUTEDLY (the finale) is an intense, groove filled statement. Every color explored is here and is in its full potential. It's bold and- like undeniably and unapologetically- is undisputedly black. Guided by my love for Tyler, the Creator's Hot Wind Blows, Marvin Gaye's I Want You ( due to Kendrick's The Heart series), and Kamasi Washington's Street Fighter Mas along with Askem.

I hope that "DOPE" will serve as a tribute to the black musicians who have paved the way and inspired me to create music that is authentic to who I am. I also hope that this piece will inspire others to break down the barriers between their musical influences and create something truly unique and personal.

PREMIERE: October 9, 2022
University of South Carolina Symphonic Winds (DR. JAY JACOBS, CONDUCTOR)

  • Program note by Katahj Copley


The music of Canadian-British composer Peter Meechan (b. 1980, Nuneaton, UK) is extensively performed throughout the world. His music has been commissioned, recorded, broadcast and performed by some of the world’s leading symphony orchestras, wind ensembles, brass bands, conductors and soloists, including: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, The United States Air Force Band, The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own”, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass, The Dallas WindsBlack Dyke Brass Band, The Band of the Coldstream Guards, RNCM Wind Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey, Jens Lindemann, Ryan Anthony, David Childs, Steven Mead, Patrick Sheridan, Les Neish, Peter Moore, Linda Merrick, and many more.

Meechan’s music is featured on over 130 commercial recordings and has been featured at festivals and clinics globally, including the Midwest Clinic, The American Bandmasters Association (ABA) Conference, CBDNA, the International Trumpet Guild, the International Tuba and Euphonium Association, BASBWE conferences, and in 2014 his work “The Legend of King Arthur” was used as the set test piece at the British National Brass Band Championships, held in the Royal Albert Hall, London. His works for brass band have been used as compulsory and own choice selections at music contests across the world.

Peter was the first ever “Young Composer in Association” with the prestigious Black Dyke Brass band from 2003 – 2006, where he also went on to serve as their “Composer in Residence” for a further season. Meechan also held the position of “Composer in Residence” with The Band of the Coldstream Guards between 2012 – 2015.

His work Perpetua won the 2021 Sousa-ABA-Ostwald Composition Contest, and Meechan has also been a finalist in the National Band Association William D. Revelli Memorial Composition Contest (Waves Towards the Pebbled Shore). His first concerto for tuba, Episodes and Echoes, won the ITEA Harvey G. Phillips Award for Excellence in Composition.

In October 2020, Meechan was awarded the CBA (Canadian Band Association) ‘Canadian Composers’ Award’ – only the 9th recipient since the award’s inception in 1991, and in 2022 he was elected into the membership of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association.

He holds an undergraduate degree (BMus Hons) from the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, UK), where he studied with Dr. Anthony Gilbert, Dr. David Horne and Adam Gorb, a Master of Arts (MA) degree and a PhD (composition), both from the University of Salford (Manchester, UK), where he studied with Prof. Peter Graham.

Peter resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, with his wife Michelle (a band teacher) and their miniature dachshund dogs: Stevie and Jurgen (not band teachers), and when not writing music can usually be found watching his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

Mark Awad (he/him) is currently in his eighteenth year as director of bands at Bay Middle School. At the middle school, he teaches band in grades five through eight, in addition to the middle school jazz band. Mr. Awad is also the assistant director of the Bay High Rocket Marching Band. Additionally, he is the director of the pit orchestra for the musicals at Bay High School. Some of the musicals that he has conducted include: 42nd Street, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, The Addams Family, Shrek the Musical, Chicago: High School Edition, Bye Bye Birdie, and Newsies. Mr. Awad has also served as the chairperson for the Ohio Music Education Association, District 4 Middle School Honors Festival. Mr. Awad is also a member of the American School Band Directors Association. Mr. Awad earned his master’s degree in music education from Case Western Reserve University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Youngstown State University. His primary instrument is the trombone, on which he continues to perform. 

Michael Komperda (he/him) is an alumnus of CYWS and a graduate of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree. Currently in his fifteenth year teaching, Mr. Komperda teaches in Rocky River, where he directs the Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, two high school Jazz Bands, the Pit Orchestra and the Pep Band, and teaches Music Technology and AP Music Theory courses at Rocky River High School. He also teaches beginning Brass & Percussion and third grade music at Kensington Intermediate School. Outside of his teaching duties, Mr. Komperda plays clarinet in the Cleveland Winds, and directs and plays in pit orchestras around the Cleveland area. Recently, he has performed in productions of Seussical the Musical, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast, and Young Frankenstein. Professionally, Mr. Komperda is a member of the Ohio Music Education Association, and the Greater Cleveland Solo & Ensemble Association.

Dr. Birch Browning is Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Cleveland State University (CSU) and Music Director of the Cleveland Winds, a professional wind band based at CSU. He taught high school band and orchestra in Florida prior to earning a Ph.D. in Music Education at Florida State University (FSU). Dr. Browning joined the faculty at CSU in 2002, and he previously taught music education courses at Stetson University and FSU.

Along with his research work, Dr. Browning is in demand as a conductor and clinician. Dr. Browning founded the Cleveland Winds in 2009. The Cleveland Winds is the winner of The American Prize in the Band/Wind Ensemble Performance—community & school division and performed at the Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in 2017. The CSU Chamber Winds performed at the same conference in 2005 and 2015. Dr. Browning’s ensembles have given live performances on WCLV, Cleveland’s Classical Music Station, on six occasions. The CSU Symphonic Band, CSU Chamber Winds, and the Cleveland Winds appear on the Timothy Reynish International Repertoire Series, Vol. 12 recording, which is available on iTunes and Spotify. Selections from the Cleveland Winds March 2022 concert, including the US premiere of Luis Alarcón's Cello Concerto with winds, percussion, and piano, will appear in volume 13 in the series.