Cool Joe



Composer(s) / Arranger(s): Gary P. Gilroy,

Performance Time: 3:30  |  Grade: 4  |  Style: Contemporary

Cool Joe was commissioned by the Bonita Vista High School (San Diego, California) Wind Ensemble, Jason Mangan, Conductor, and premiered at their Carnegie Hall (NYC) performance on Saturday, April 20, 2014.

In the spring of 2013 the composer conducted the Sweetwater Union High School District Honor Band and got to know Mr. Jason Mangan quite well as Jason served as the honor band manager and host for the rehearsals and concert. When the Bonita High School Wind Ensemble was accepted to perform in the Heritage Festivals Carnegie Hall Concert Series, Mr. Mangan reached out to Dr. Gilroy and commissioned this work.

Having grown up on the east coast, composer Gary P. Gilroy was delighted to compose a work for a premiere in Carnegie Hall and almost immediately thought of his former high school band director, Mr. Joseph McCaskey, who was in the midst of his final days before retiring from Lancaster (PA) Catholic High School. Mr. Mangan left the topic or theme of the commission wide open and so Dr. Gilroy took advantage of the opportunity to compose a work in honor of his former music teacher who had such a favorable impact on his life as a musician and more importantly, as a person. Mr. Joseph McCaskey is the ‘Joe’ of Cool Joe.

Composer Gary P. Gilroy writes the following about Mr. McCaskey:
I owe so much of my career and all of its successes to a man who shaped my life dramatically during my high school days. By the end of the first week of band camp before I even started my first day of high school, I knew I wanted to be a high school band and be just like the man who stood before me in my fantastic high school band. Mr. Joseph McCaskey was an inspirational musician and conductor. I remember him asking the band to consider switching instruments due to a need for more French horns. I had no idea what the instrument even looked like and yet I volunteered to give it a try. Being one of a bunch of drummers (most of us were not yet percussionists), Mr. McCaskey was only too happy to give me a French horn with a book of fingerings. I took it home and brought it back two or three days later telling my beloved band director that there was no hope for me as a French horn player and I requested to return to the drum section.

I was a little miffed when he told me that I would have to stick it out and stay in the French horn section. That I did. And within a few months I actually practiced and made my first honor band on the French horn. This was only one of many life lessons that Mr. McCaskey gave me. Although I eventually went on to major in percussion during my college years, I always played French horn and eventually played many of the brass instruments, which certainly helped me be more successful as a band director.

The title, Cool Joe, is directly related to Joe McCaskey. I never knew such a cool teacher, although he was extremely strict. Mr. McCaskey did not allow anyone to call him by his first name until after graduation. Using the name “Joe” was a reserved privilege only his Alumni could use. Mr. McCaskey inspired me in many, many ways. He cared deeply for his students and it showed. The things he stood for were admirable in my opinion and he constantly had a positive impact on my development as a young man. 
This composition is my dedication to him and his impressive career as a music educator and high school administrator. The form of the piece is basically intro,A,B,C,B,A and then a coda. The coda combines fragments of the earlier sections along with short quotes of fragments from the Alma Mater, Fight Song, and even the Drum Cadence, from my high school days at Lancaster Catholic High School.

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