In May 2009, long-time Winds director Michael Purves-Smith retired from both his role as director and as a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Music Department. A full page collection of tributes appeared in the 2009 July/August edition of The Music Times.
Although the Wellington Winds had its beginnings in Guelph in 1981, the organization soon found itself looking for a permanent music director. Michael, already very busy with many commitments at Wilfrid Laurier University, including the University Wind Ensemble, agreed to take on the position. His knowledge of the repertoire and his desire to build the Wellington Winds into a first class ensemble were valuable assets. Concert venues in Guelph soon included Waterloo, then Elmira and Kitchener.
The Winds established itself as one of Canada’s leading community concert bands with an annual season of four pairs of concerts. Michael invited local soloists, arrangers and composers to be featured. Several CDs have been produced, including An Artist’s Neighbourhood that presents works by local composers. The Winds drew many if the finest musicians in Central Ontario wanting to perform the best band literature at the highest level.
One K-W Record critic wrote “It’s always a delight to hear this group because they are the area’s finest band players … and Purves-Smith makes sure the band has a variety of challenging music for every concert.” The financial footing of the Winds took some years to establish. In spite of this, Michael selflessly assumed many tasks beyond directing the group including locating additional personnel, arranging and composing music needed for concerts, writing grant applications, and advancing the Winds’ profile across Canada.
Michael’s commitment to young musicians, bands and community music-making was evident in his initiating and organizing the first Music Is For Life Symposium, a recent cross-generational four-day band event involving 140 musicians from Ontario and beyond. It’s success promises future repeats. The Wellington Winds and its members, past and present, are most grateful for 26 years of superb and generous leadership.