Naden Band conductor joins prestigious association

Lt(N) Matthew Clark conducts the B.C. Cadet Honour Band during their concert at McPherson Theatre, March 22.

Lt(N) Matthew Clark conducts the B.C. Cadet Honour Band during their concert at McPherson Theatre, March 22.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer ~

Five years conducting the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy has earned Lieutenant (Navy) Matthew Clark some State-side recognition.

The naval officer, and highly talented musician, was extended an invitation in early March to join the prestigious American Bandmasters Association (ABA).

“There are 300 serving conductors in the Association, and I will make the sixth Canadian,” says Lt(N) Clark. “My father was my first teacher, and he always told me that if I really wanted to be successful at something, I would need to surround myself with experts in that field.

As part of this Association, I will be surrounded by the giants of the wind ensemble world, and this will push awareness of professional Canadian military wind bands forward.”

The ABA was formed in 1920 by Edwin Franko Goldman, a prominent band composer, to raise esteem for concert bands among musicians and audiences, and to solidify concert band’s place in the cultural heritage of North American society.

Apart from the 300 serving conductors and composers of wind band in the principle category, there are 80 associate members.

Only those contacted to make an application by a pre-existing member can hope to receive invitation to apply to be in the Association.

The application process is strict, requiring years of evidence of a conductor or composer’s work to make the cut. In Lt(N) Clark’s case, music colleague Dr. Gerald King, conductor of the University of Victoria’s Wind Ensemble, began collecting evidence of Lt(N) Clark’s accomplishments starting in 2012.

Dr. King filed away audio recordings of the naval officer conducting for the Victoria Symphony, the Naden Band, the University of Victoria, and the Victoria Philharmonic Choir over a period of about four years.  

In 2015, he told Lt(N) Clark of his plans to invite the conductor to apply.

“My immediate reaction, I was very humbled,” says Lt(N) Clark. “I love doing what I do, but I didn’t necessarily know if it would end up happening. When I finally found out, I had to sit down and take a deep breath.”

Once the application was sent to the Association, a 75 per cent vote from the current members who listened to the collected audio snippets had to be made in order to invite the new member.

Each year, about 12 to 16 candidates are put forward as potential applicants, but only a small fraction end up with an invitation.

He says that acknowledgment at this level confirmed he took the right direction in life, as both an artist and a professional. He says the achievement allows him to continue to strengthen the tradition of the military wind band in Canada.

He also acknowledges that without the outstanding skill and professionalism of the Naden Band members, this honour would not have happened.  

“The Naden Band is one of the finest ensembles of its kind and I am thrilled to have commanded this wonderful unit over the past five years,” he says.

“What I take to heart with this accomplishment is my desire to push forth quality music, and to push forth what concert bands are all about. We aren’t just marches and mess dinners. We are an art form and proud serving members in uniform.”

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