Washington Evening Journal
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FAIRFIELD — Fairfield resident Nancy McFarland Gaub will make her debut as a composer when she performs a piece she wrote for a May 15 concert.
The orchestra will present its spring concert titled “Symphonic Treasures” at 7:30 p.m. that day at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa. Gaub will be among three featured artists that evening. The orchestra will perform her “Violin Concerto in D,” her first-ever composition for a full orchestra.
Gaub will perform the solo violin part.
Gaub has been in the music business her entire adult life and has performed on three continents as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. In recent years, Gaub has taken an interest in composing, writing numerous works for solo instruments and chamber groups. Gaub recently retired from her job as a professor of music at Grinnell College to work on composing full time.
Gaub and her husband, Gene, moved to Fairfield in 2005 and have been here ever since, spending part of the year in Colorado.
Gaub was born and raised in Dekalb, Ill., and moved to the Chicago area when she was 13. She comes from a long line of musicians, with her grandmother a professional violinist, her aunt a professional violinist and pianist, and her mother an amateur violinist.
“I inherited the bug from them,” Gaub said.
Gaub started on the piano at age 5, and her musical abilities soon became evident. She added the violin to her repertoire at age 9. She attended the Interlochen Music Camp at age 13, and that’s when she decided to devote her life to performing. She was equally talented on both piano and violin, but knew they were such difficult instruments she would have to choose one. She chose violin.
“I planned on being a violinist. I thought I’d like to do this as a job,” Gaub said.
Gaub went on to receive degrees from the Chicago College of Performing Arts and the Juilliard School. For more than a decade, Gaub played violin with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and has performed as a soloist with it and for several other orchestras.
While living in Manhattan, Gaub met her husband, Gene, who had just finished studying at Juilliard. Gene got a job teaching music at Grinnell College in Iowa. By then, the couple had a son, Will, and felt it was a good time to move. Gaub got a job as a music lecturer at Grinnell College, and though she continued to perform, she wanted to have a job where she could devote more time to her family.
“It’s hard being a parent where you have to perform and you miss putting your child to bed,” she said.
After moving to Grinnell, Nancy and Gene wanted to find a new school for their son where he would be happier. They visited Maharishi School in Fairfield, liked what they saw, and decided to move to Fairfield. Will spent time studying at Maharishi School, Fairfield High School and in home-school. Meanwhile, the couple maintained their jobs in Grinnell, making the 90-mile commute multiple times a week. Gene still teaches at the college, though Nancy has stepped down to focus on composing.
During her performing and teaching career, Gaub always had the urge to do something creative, an urge that has grown stronger during the past decade. At first, composing an entire piece of music was daunting. Gaub said she could think of short snippets of notes and melodies she liked, but then ran out of steam, unable to connect them into a single piece.
She had an “a-ha” moment while participating in a roundtable discussion at Grinnell on creativity. One of the participants talked about how his creative process involved writing fragments on Post-it notes, then putting all the Post-it notes on the floor to see how they all related.
Gaub said she loved that approach, and though she didn’t copy it exactly with Post-it notes on the floor, it gave her a blueprint for how she might compose her own pieces.
“I discovered that you can write a fragment of something, come back days later and write another fragment, and the two are still related,” she said. “I was able to grow my pieces longer and longer by doing that.”
Gaub has been performing with the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra for seven or eight years. She’s excited the orchestra will play one of her own pieces for the first time on May 15.
Gaub said her piece “Violin Concerto in D” was written for a small orchestra, so no trombone, trumpet or tuba parts. However, she still had to write music for a number of instruments she’s not familiar with playing such as wind instruments including the oboe, clarinet and bassoon.
She wanted to make the parts fairly easy and within each instrument’s normal range so she could be certain the sound coming out would be good quality.
“I don’t know if something works until they play it,” Gaub said.
Gaub consulted with cellist Donna Nelson, also a Fairfield resident, for advice on the cello parts, which Nelson was happy to provide.
Gaub said there is no plan to perform her piece after the May 15 concert, though she’d love to bring the orchestra and her concerto to the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center someday. She has performed at least three times at the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, including recitals with her husband.
Those who wish to attend the May 15 concert in Ottumwa can purchase tickets in advance at OttumwaSymphonyOrchestra.net, or at the door. The concert will be livestreamed on the Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra's Facebook page.