Fanfare Contributor Bio
I was born in 1955 in Galena Park, Texas, a suburban town just outside of Houston. Growing up, I had no exposure whatsoever to great music; neither of my parents were particularly musical. All this changed when I joined the school band in the sixth grade, at first playing tuba, then later, euphonium. When I was in the eighth grade, my band director passed out the music for “Themes from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6” to our junior high band. I was thunderstruck. I immediately ran out and bought the first recording of the orchestral original I could lay my hands on. This was the very first classical record I ever bought and I still have it to this day—Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Hallé Orchestra on the Vanguard label. That was it. That was the defining moment that led not only to my lifelong love of music, but also to my decision to pursue music as a profession. I continued my musical studies throughout high school with private instrumental lessons and courses in music theory, all the while building up quite an impressive LP collection, especially for a teenager. It was at this time that I began composing and arranging, mostly for groups of friends and school functions. My parents didn’t quite know what to make of it, but supported my passion, nonetheless. When I graduated from high school, I began my formal musical training at Sam Houston State University, a small state-run school in Huntsville, Texas, which then had and still maintains today a very fine school of music. At SHSU, I received excellent training from several brilliant professors and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s in conducting, musicology, and theory. By this time, I realized that I just didn’t have the “gift” to be a composer, but I did continue to hone my arranging skills, including my first efforts for symphonic wind ensemble.
Upon graduation, I began what was to end up being a 28-year career as a school band director, all the while continuing my activities as an arranger. Over the years, I began to focus my efforts on transcriptions for symphonic wind ensemble and have built quite a reputation and a fairly large catalogue of works. Among my transcriptions are Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and The Firebird Suite (1919), Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral,” Janacek’s Sinfonietta, Holst’s The Planets (complete), Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations (complete), Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Respighi’s Feste romane, and Javelin by American composer Michael Torke, who praised my transcription as “brilliant” and further remarked, “I didn’t realize that a band transcription could come out so well.” I have made the works of Aaron Copland something of a specialty, having written wind transcriptions of Appalachian Spring, Letter from Home, and Down a Country Lane. My transcriptions have received critical acclaim in numerous music journals including The Instrumentalist, Fanfare, and The American Record Guide, whose Barry Kirkpatrick stated, “Patterson does with Debussy’s ‘The Engulfed Cathedral’ what Ravel did with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition... Debussy’s piano piece is magical, and so is Patterson’s setting for band.” My works have been performed by leading professional organizations, including the United States Marine Band, the United States Air Force Band, and the Dallas Wind Symphony, as well as by major university ensembles across the United States and around the world, and are recorded on the Mark, DBP Audio, Albany, and GIA record labels. My works are published by TRN, Manhattan Beach Music, Boosey & Hawkes, and at my website, www.merlinpatterson.com.