Ad Lib (Grade 2)
Ad Lib was commissioned by Timothy MacDonald and the Bellingham (MA) Memorial School Bands in loving memory of Ian Shumaker, a sixth-grade percussionist in the band program who tragically passed away on December 3, 2022. By all accounts, Ian was an adventurous spirit and a positive influence on all who knew him. He loved reading, history, music, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hamilton, Legos, Minecraft, hiking, and, above all, his little brother Crosby. Unafraid to improvise, Ian clearly lived a life that was embraced fully, even if it was far too short.
The melodic material for the piece is all derived from a motive that Ian played as part of his improvised vibraphone solo at one of his last concerts on May 19, 2022. This melodic idea is presented in different styles throughout the piece, used in augmentation, canon, inversion, and even presented as a vertical harmony. The vibraphone is also featured prominently throughout the piece. Additionally, according to Mr. MacDonald, “Ian was the king of using the drum set to play "ba doom crash" every time I made a joke in jazz band,” so this identifiable motive occurs as a unifying element throughout the work, even serving as the concluding statement from the percussion section at the end of the piece.
Ad Lib is structured in three disparate sections, each of which contains an element of improvisation from members of the ensemble, and all intended to reflect Ian’s spirit and willingness to improvise. The first section, Crosby’s Big Brother, is a gentle and loving section with short, improvised solos using specific rhythms from Ian’s vibes solo. The second section, The Concert, reflects Ian’s role in the jazz program, presenting a swing version of the melody, complete with solo sections using the B flat blues. The final section, An Adventurous Spirit, begins with a percussion feature during which the percussionists are asked to choose their own instrument and create their own rhythmic patterns, an improvisation which eventually extends to the entire band, with players using drumsticks in an improvised manner. Finally, the main theme returns in augmentation and canon, leading to an optimistic and energetic conclusion, and hopefully encouraging each of us to take a chance and be a little more like Ian.