DePaul University School of Music > Community Music > About Us > Faculty Profiles > Feature Tom Madeja

Faculty Profile: Thomas Madeja

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 music scene.

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.