Gregory B. Rudgers '70 Finds Buried Musical Treasures

Retired alumnus continues to make important contributions to the wind band repertoire.
by Julie Waters, M.M. ’91

When band director Gregory B. Rudgers ’70 stumbled across a recording in the stacks of his band room in 1976, he couldn’t have known that it would lead him to make a significant contribution to the wind band repertoire — or that he would wait 30 years to do so.

Greg had discovered a 1955 rendition of The Masks, a two-movement suite for orchestra by Ronald Lo Presti, on a Mercury Recording by the Eastman/Rochester Orchestra, conducted by Howard Hanson. While a music education major at IC, Greg had performed Lo Presti’s much acclaimed masterpiece for band “Elegy for a Young American,” written in 1964 in memory of President John F. Kennedy. Impressed by that composition, Greg now found The Masks just as powerful and expressive and decided that the piece would make a wonderful band transcription.

He bounced the idea off his colleague and Eastman School of Music graduate Louis Coccagnia, and was stunned to discover that Louis was the clarinet soloist on that 1955 recording. But as a busy young band director, Greg found the project daunting, so he put the idea aside — for about three decades.

In 2005 Greg heard a stirring performance of Lo Presti’s elegy at the Midwest Clinic International Orchestra and Band Conference. Now retired from teaching and a published composer himself, Greg remembered The Masks recording and his connection with Louis, and he knew it was time to tackle the transcription.

He would first need a copy of the score. Fate led him to IC grad David Strong ’70, the administrator at the Eastman School who was in charge of copyrights; David graciously offered Greg permission to do the transcription. (The Eastman School owned the rights to the work as part of an endowment set up for its parent University of Rochester.)

Greg began the painstaking work, using a small study score — ordered from Carl Fischer Music for $4.50, the 1950s price — and a second recording of the work by the Oregon Symphony. Members of Ithaca College ensembles read early drafts, and after necessary adjustments, Mark Scatterday at Eastman read through the manuscript with the Eastman Wind Ensemble. When Greg, as well as Eastman and Carl Fischer, were all satisfied as to the transcription’s worthiness, Fischer published “The Masks by Ronald Lo Presti, as transcribed for band by Gregory B. Rudgers.”

 “It has been a privilege and honor,” Greg says, “to participate in the discovery and development of a new transcription for band that recalls this gifted composer.”

1 Comment

A composer myself, I studied composition under Ronald Lopresti for several years in the early 1980's. He was truly gifted. It was a sad day when I heard of his untimely death.