A local band director received a prestigious honor last month as a featured composer at an international music conference in Chicago.
Andrew Lawson, who serves as the band director at Innovation Academy of Robertson County, was recognized as a composer at The Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Festival, which took place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in downtown Chicago from Dec. 20-22.
Lawson had the high honor of having one of his compositions performed by the Vandercook College of Music Symphonic Band, which is the only group to perform annually at the event. While the conference features performances by organizations worldwide, every other group that desires to perform must apply in order to attend.
After modest beginnings in 1946 with approximately 120 band and music directors from the Chicago area met in a YMCA gym, The Midwest Clinic has grown to a multi-day event of international recognition, attracting more than 16,000 attendees, 400 exhibitors, 50 performances, and over 120 music clinics.
While his piece, “Exsultate,” was premiered by the Vandercook Symphony, Lawson himself was publicly recognized for his contribution.
The achievement is just one of Lawson’s growing list of accomplishments throughout his musical career. To put his story into some perspective, Lawson actually began writing music in middle school, though he admits, “By any standard it was not good.”
His musical passion only grew as he continued his pursuit into high school where his band directors allowed him to shadow them during his open block. Eventually that evolved into assistance, which he described as an incredible experience.
A graduate of Tullahoma High School in Tullahoma, Tenn., Lawson went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from Tennessee Technological University.
While in college, Lawson stated that he, “started to really be able to write for some great players.”
His first real collegiate performance was with the horn ensemble his freshman year. The following year as a sophomore he won the Dallas Wind Symphony’s International Fanfare Composition Competition. This allowed Lawson to go to Dallas and perform a premier with The Dallas Winds, one of the premier wind bands in the country.
“That jumpstarted my desire to write more,” Lawson said. “I knew I wanted to teach but didn’t want to be the band director that can’t do anything else. I wanted to be able to teach, write and play.”
“To illustrate, last night I was playing in an orchestra in Hendersonville,” he stated last month before the conference. “Today I’m teaching, and next week I’ll be in Chicago.”
As a composer, Lawson writes for a variety of ensembles including band, orchestra, brass band, brass choir, and chamber ensembles. He went on to become a three-time winner of the Dallas Wind Symphony contest and had compositions named as semifinalist and finalist for The American Prize in Wind Band Composition.
Lawson has also performed as a guest artist with the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra and has served as a counselor and instructor at the Summer Music Institute at Tennessee Tech University.
In 2022, Lawson joined the arranging staff at SouthCoast Music and Design. Over the last decade, he has written over 250 arrangements for churches across the southeastern United States and continues to write and arrange for the church on a regular basis. His music has also been performed by middle school, high school, collegiate, and professional ensembles across the US.
While currently serving as director of bands at Innovation Academy, his responsibilities include directing the Beginning Band, Middle School Concert Band, and High School Band. In addition, Lawson serves as assistant director of the Springfield High School Marching Band. Most recently, he was recognized as a Marquis Who’s Who in America Biographee for his contributions to music education and music literature.