Curiosity, combined with passion and a disciplined work ethic, is why Tyson Wunderlich has succeeded in his field. Of course, a strong background always helps. He said he has been passionate about music his whole life.
“Music is definitely a God-given talent I have had since childhood,” said Wunderlich, adjunct faculty member in the Department of Music. “I had many opportunities to use this talent during my early yearsᾰfrom playing the piano in recitals and church services regularly, to accompanying and directing various Broadway hits in the area. I’ve always known it would not be a waste to pursue it.”
Oftentimes, great pressure comes with great talent, and Wunderlich is no stranger to intense situations. In 2006, he competed in the International Wind Conducting Competition in Vienna, Austria. He said he is always looking for such opportunities via the Conductors Guild and the College Band Directors National Association, but Dr. Robert Gifford, a former professor in the Department of Music, pointed out the opportunity and helped Wunderlich to prepare for it. The competitors were assigned seven scores for the first round, of which three would be selected by the judges for performance. Each contestant had to study and analyze every score closely, because there would only be two weeks to prepare for the first round. The competitors had no way of knowing which three the judges would select.
“All of the musical literature was pre-decided,” said Wunderlich. “After I studied the seven scores, the judges randomly picked the three with which I happened to be the least comfortable.”
Wunderlich said he did extensive studies on all of the pieces they told him to conduct for each phase of the competition. Each of the 30 contestants conducted their three pieces over the course of two days.
“I crammed hard on the three they told me to conduct on the first round by researching and listening to as many recordings as possible, along with analyzing the scores themselves,” said Wunderlich. “However, little did I know, this was only the beginning.”
After the first round, the judges announced who would be advancing to the second round and assigned them two additional scores as part of the competition. The kicker was that the second round would begin the very next morning.
“I was so unsure that I would rate, I honestly did not even have copies of the scores for the next round, much less know them. I borrowed another contestant’s scores that evening and stayed up all night cramming for the next day’s audition.”
However, his hard work paid off, and Wunderlich placed sixth in a competition that began with 30, an honor for such a young conductor.
Among the pieces Wunderlich conducted were “Postcard” by Frank Ticheli, “Whatsoever Things” by Mark Camphouse and “Fantasy
Tales” by Piet Swerts for the first round; for the second, “La Forza del Destino” by Giuseppe Verdi and “Sirinia,” a violin concerto commissioned for the event. Despite the nerve-wracking pressure, Wunderlich said he would do it all over again.
“I think the adrenalin did most of the work,” said Wunderlich. “I would jump back into such a wonderful opportunity in a heartbeat. I remember staying focused day after day, with the next hurdle always in the forefront of my mind. Not only did I get to conduct an original, professional Austrian wind band, but I learned some great literature for wind ensembles and met conductors from all over Europe, where this magnificent art was invented.”
Wunderlich said he was born and raised in Altenburg, Mo. He received a bachelor of arts degree in piano performance from Southeast and a master of music in conducting degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston.
“My goal at the New England Conservatory was to strengthen my weakness,” said Wunderlich. “As a pianist, I wanted to open my eyes to the other genres of classical music, particularly for wind band.”
Wunderlich said his curriculum included weekly conducting lessons and master classes, at which “the best of student orchestras” were always present. He also said he took history and literature classes each semester.
“These classes, together, led me to understand greatly the breath behind each instrument and how to control the production of its sound, all by a meticulous conducting gesture,” said Wunderlich.
He currently conducts the Perry County Lutheran Chorale, as well as the performing ensembles of Saxony Lutheran High School. He has taught a private piano studio for more than 10 years and is currently teaching privately in the Southeast Missouri Music Academy, along with teaching “Music Appreciation” in the Department of Music.
“Every human is an artist within himself or herself,” said Wunderlich. “I encourage them to find this niche and exercise it, so they, and the world, can appreciate their own artistry. In teaching, my goal is to guide my students’ ears to the details of the music, to help them better understand other individuals and societies.”
Wunderlich said his favorite moments are when students make connections between composers within the evolution of music, and recognize the relationships that exist within different eras.
“My goal is to help my students,” said Wunderlich. “I hope they continue to learn as far as their imaginations will allow.”
No stranger to travel, Wunderlich has traveled to 34 of the 50 U.S. states, and has covered much of Europe including Austria, Germany, England and Switzerland.
“There’s always another place I’d like to go,” said Wunderlich. “Currently, my hot spots include Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, and Venice. I love traveling with my wife, Carrie. From taking road trips to nearby destinations, to traveling abroad and living in different cultures, there is never a dull moment in traveling. The world has so much to experience.”
When he’s not teaching, traveling or performing, Wunderlich said he enjoys playing frisbee and spending time with his wife and cat, appropriately named “Forte.”
In fact, he encourages others to take on his perspective:
“The world is an unlimited experience. Go out and enjoy it while you can!”