Tom Madeja is the director of the New Horizons Concert and Jazz Bands. In addition to working with the DePaul
Community Music Division, Tom currently serves as Artistic Director for ChiMOP,
teaches at ChiArts, manages TJ Madeja Music, LLC, and keeps a busy performance
schedule with various chamber ensembles, his own jazz trio, and the local salsa
Q: How long have you
been working with the New Horizons Band?
I’ve been working with the New Horizons Concert Band and
Jazz Band for just over a year now. I started in the Fall of 2015, so this is
my fifth concert with them. The repertoire that we’ve been working on has been
getting a little more challenging each concert. Not only that, the way that we
approach the repertoire is getting a little more in depth with more nuance and
detail added to the performance each time we have a concert.
Q: How does your work
elsewhere as a musician, composer and administrator influence your work as
conductor of New Horizons?
I’m primarily a trumpet player, but I also run a non-profit
called Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project.
We run youth orchestra programming in underserved communities. My role there is
mostly administrative, I try to raise awareness, I also create the curriculum.
As a musician, performer and composer as well, I play a lot of different styles
of music, I play in symphony orchestras, jazz ensembles, and salsa music is
probably what I play more than anything else. This experience with a little bit
of this and a little bit of that plays into my work with the New Horizons
Concert Band and Jazz Band.
Q: What are your main
goals for the New Horizons Concert Band?
When choosing repertoire, I select three different types of
pieces; one simple piece to focus on nuance, one medium level piece, and one
more technically challenging piece. With these three pieces we can work to
develop the different aspects of playing, texture, balance, notes and rhythms.
Our most important goal is listening; understanding how you, as a musician, fit
in with the ensemble.
Q: Are your goals
similar or different for the New Horizons Jazz Band?
It’s almost half of a music theory session because jazz is
such a specific language. We work on rhythmic concepts, chord changes, and
scale relationships in order to structure a solo and converse with each other through
the language of improvisation. We do this in the context of a certain piece
that we’re working on. We take ideas from the tune that we’re playing and we
pick a couple concepts to talk about. Then, I give them some exercises to work
on developing those concepts. Each concert, we play a couple of tunes and each
time it gets a little more challenging and their solos and improvisation get deeper.
Q: Are there things that
inspire you as a conductor for this group?
The fact that they’re here inspires me. In a way, it’s one
of my favorite things to do because these are adults that have careers,
families, and extraordinarily busy lives. They’re not professional musicians,
but they are committed enough to make music an important part of their lives,
giving up time on the weekends, time daily to practice, time in the winter to
brave the weather in order to be here. It’s a commitment. Music is a
lifestyle. The fact that busy people
with jobs and lives and families are willing to be here and want to give their
time is inspiring to me.
Q: What is special about the New Horizons program at DePaul?
It’s really fun! I’m a professional musician, I’ve been
playing for 25 years and I learn from them everyday. There’s a lot to learn in
a good, fun, friendly atmosphere. To be part of a community like this is a
special opportunity you don’t get in a lot of places. There are people who’ve
been coming for a long time and they keep coming back. It’s a great opportunity to play some really
cool venues with some great repertoire. I’m looking forward to programming even
more cool and challenging music.