Wind Ensemble Leader Takes Fellow Students Abroad

Conductor and bandleader Roy McLerran organized and fundraised for a transformative musical trip to Austria for fellow Frost School of Music wind students.
Frost School students at Vienna's Musikverein before a concert; group leader Roy McLerran is third from left; Professor Carnochan is far right. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran

Frost School of Music doctoral student Roy McLerran has an aptitude for leadership - as a wind conductor, a band leader, and a music educator. McLerran took that aptitude further this summer, organizing and leading an intensive ten-day trip to Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, for 11 fellow Frost School of Music Wind students.

McLerran conceived, fundraised for, and organized the late May trip, immersing the group of graduate and undergraduate students in private lessons, masterclasses, concerts, lectures, and visits to museums and archives – and a day hiking the gorgeous Austrian countryside around Wolfgangsee Lake near Salzburg.

"It's been a passion project for a while," says McLerran, who worked on the trip with a staffer at Salzburg College, an international school. He is devoted to chamber wind music, which he says started in the 18th century largely in this area of Austria, with extensive music by famed classical and romantic composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Strauss, and Beethoven. "That's where the traditions start, where the archives are," says McLerran. "They still embrace that style of playing there, 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 over concerts, rehearsals, and dinners. Many of the Frost School students planned to stay in touch. "They learned so much and had a really good rapport with their instructors," McLerran says. "They were able to get a different perspective."

Frost School of Music students while hiking along Wolfgangsee Lake outside of Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.

Frost School of Music students while hiking along Wolfgangsee Lake near Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.

An East Texas native, McLerran began playing trumpet in his small-town middle school band, and got his undergraduate degree in music education at the Stephen F. Austin State University. He taught middle and high school band for six years in Texas and one in Florida. In 2016, he founded East Texas Chamber Winds (ETCW), an ensemble devoted to chamber wind music, which he still leads. "People still write for the genre today," McLerran says. "There are thousands of fantastic pieces out there that don't get played often."

This spring, McLerran was recognized twice as a 2024 National Finalist in two divisions of The American Prize, an annual series of national, non-profit competitions for school, church, community, and professional performing arts groups. McLerran won in Conducting Band and Wind Ensemble (University division) and, as the leader of ETCW, in Band and Wind Ensemble Performance (Community division).

McLerran was attracted to the Frost School, where he got his master's in 2022 and will complete his doctorate next spring, by its reputation for excellence and wide range of opportunities. A graduate teaching assistant, he has conducted the Frost Wind Ensemble and Frost Symphonic Winds, assisted with the Frost Band of the Hour, and taught undergraduate conducting classes.

Roy McLerran and fellow Frost School of Music Students after their final performance at Camarata Hall in Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.
Roy McLerran (second from left) and fellow Frost School of Music Students after their final performance at Camarata Hall in Salzburg. Photo courtesy of Roy McLerran.

However, the primary draw was Frost Professor and wind band program leader Robert Carnochan, whom McLerran got to know when Carnochan was a professor and band director at the University of Texas.

"He's a very passionate and caring person," McLerran says of his mentor. "He cares about students and thinks of them as human beings first. You don't find many people like that at his level. He guides you but lets you figure things out for yourself. If he sees you're passionate about something, he'll do what he can to help."

Carnochan was key in encouraging McLerran to pursue the Austria project. "He said, 'If you can make it happen, I'll support it," McLerran says. Dania Gorriz, the Frost School's assistant VP of development, advised McLerran on fundraising and told him about the Citizen's Board Changemakers Student Fund, supported by University of Miami alumni, which awarded $16,000 to the Austria trip – one of only eight projects funded across the University. Small donations, the Band department, and an anonymous gift obtained by Dean Shelly G. Berg covered most of the remaining expenses. Carnochan joined the group for much of the trip.

McLerran says one of the most moving parts of their trip was joining the community bands, which are at the heart of the musical tradition in Vienna and Austria. "It starts with community," he says. "We made some really good friends."