Brass band leader takes his colleagues abroad

Frost School of Music doctoral student Roy McLerran has a knack for leadership—as a wind conductor, bandleader, and music educator. McLerran developed that talent this summer by organizing and leading an intensive ten-day trip to Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, for 11 other Frost School of Music Wind students.

McLerran conceived, funded and organized a trip in late May during which a group of undergraduate and graduate students were able to attend private lessons, master classes, concerts, lectures, visit museums and archives, and go on a day hike through the beautiful Austrian countryside around Lake Wolfgangsee near Salzburg.

“This has been a passion project I’ve had for a while,” says McLerran, who worked on the trip with an employee Salzburg College, an international school. He is devoted to wind chamber music, which he says began in the 18th century, mostly in that region of Austria, with a wide range of music by famous classical and romantic composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Strauss and Beethoven. “That’s where the traditions start, that’s where the archives are,” McLerran says. “They still cultivate that style of playing, that approach to music. I always thought it would be interesting to take a group there and immerse ourselves in that culture.”

The Frost School students performed twice and bonded with their private instructors and fellow musicians during concerts, rehearsals and dinners. Many of the Frost School students planned to stay in touch. “They learned so much and had a really good relationship with their instructors,” McLerran says. “They were able to see things from a different perspective.”

Students from the Frost School of Music hike along Lake Wolfgangsee near Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.

McLerran, an East Texas native, began playing trumpet in his small high school band and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Stephen F. Austin State University. He taught high school and middle school band for six years in Texas and one in Florida. In 2016, he founded East Texas Chamber Winds (ETCW), a wind chamber music ensemble that he still leads. “People are still writing for this genre,” McLerran says. “There are thousands of fantastic pieces that don’t get played often.”

This spring, McLerran was recognized as a 2024 National Finalist twice in two categories: American Prize, an annual series of national, nonprofit competitions for schools, churches, community and professional performing arts groups. McLerran won in the Conducting Band and Wind Ensemble category (university division) and, as leader of ETCW, in the Band and Wind Ensemble Performance category (community division).

McLerran was drawn to the Frost School, where he earned his master’s degree in 2022 and will complete his doctorate next spring, for its reputation for excellence and breadth of opportunities. As a teaching assistant, he has conducted the Frost Wind Ensemble and the Frost Symphonic Winds, assisted with the Frost Band of the Hour, and taught conducting to graduate students.

Roy McLerran (second from left) and his Frost School of Music colleagues after their recent performance at Camarata Hall in Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.

However, the main attraction was Professor Frost and the leader of the brass band program, Robert Carnochan, whom McLerran met when Carnochan was a professor and orchestra conductor at the University of Texas.

“He’s a very passionate and caring person,” McLerran says of his mentor. “He cares about his students and thinks of them as people first and foremost. You don’t find many people at his level. He guides you, but he lets you figure things out on your own. If he sees that you’re passionate about something, he’ll do whatever he can to help you.”

Carnochan was instrumental in encouraging McLerran to pursue the Austria project. “He said, ‘If you can do it, I’ll support it,’” McLerran says. Dania Gorriz, assistant vice president of development at the Frost School, advised McLerran on fundraising and told him about Citizens’ Council The Changemakers Student Fund, supported by University of Miami alumni, awarded $16,000 for the trip to Austria—one of only eight funded at the university. Small donations, the orchestra faculty, and an anonymous gift from Dean Shelly G. Berg covered most of the remaining expenses. Carnochan joined the group for most of the trip.

McLerran says one of the most moving parts of their journey was joining the community bands that are at the heart of the musical tradition in Vienna and Austria. “It starts with the community,” he says. “We’ve made some really good friends.”