‘Winds Over Glades’ music program is Capt. Boudreau’s dream

PAHOKEE — “Winds Over the Glades.” Get used to that name, but never fear: These will not be malevolent tropical winds wreaking havoc. Rather, they will be variably gentle winds, expelled from human lips through instruments that are things of beauty in the act of creating heavenly musical notes.

You are likely to hear “Winds Over the Glades” repeated a lot in coming months and years. And this name, too: Robert Boudreau.

Robert Boudreau came to Pahokee this week to inspect the Point Counterpoint II after his floating arts center was towed from Baton Rouge, La., and arrived at the city marina on Aug. 14. Photo by Chris Felker.

He is the impressive 91-year-old who’s behind the idea of establishing a musical training program that he’s calling Winds Over the Glades, which would help budding instrumentalists throughout the region surrounding Lake Okeechobee earn scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities nationwide. It’s an idea Mr. Boudreau has proven to work up north, one that’s put much wind in the sails of young people’s dreams by putting wind instruments in their hands and the necessary knowledge in their heads to make them world-class musicians. According to this orchestra conductor, professor and trumpet player, it carries a host of positive side effects, too, including the strengthening of stressed poorer families and the creation of wider cooperative communities that produce and sustain the music and performers.

And the whole idea revolves around using the one-of-a-kind stage that he and his wife and first mate, Kathleen, have been piloting around the world for decades — the famous vessel known as Point Counterpoint II, which was constructed for a 76-city tour of the United States in celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial year of 1976 and which is home to the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO).

Mr. and Mrs. Boudreau, who live in Mars, Pa., marked 52 years of marriage on Sunday, Aug. 20, as they were driving to Pahokee bearing his dream that they wished to share, along with some artworks they wanted to return to the vessel. Robert and Kathleen have raised a big family, four daughters and two sons, but have fostered a much wider extended “family” of musicians and educators through the orchestra, which he founded in 1957.

The maestro, who insists on being called Robert, explained during a phone interview before he left that he was born the son of a chicken farmer in Massachusetts, 1927, and had little prospect of greater ambitions. “We had 7,500 Rhode Island Reds, and I wanted to be a chicken farmer.

“And I made a mistake when I was 9 years old: I picked up a trumpet,” he said.

He then went from playing in polka bands at age 12 to the Rhode Island Philharmonic at 15; studied poetry at Boston University, playing in the Boston Brass Quartet; later attended Juilliard and became a Fulbright Scholar at the Paris Conservatory of Music, earning multiple degrees along the way. When he returned he became a college professor, but later he melded his educational inclinations with his passion for orchestral music, brass and wind instruments, met a number of philanthropic business titans in Pittsburgh and, at age 30, put them all together in founding the AWSO.

“That’s how the whole dream began,” Robert said. “But, this is most important … to why the boat is there, for me. I started a program in 1993 called Winds on the Mon; it was along the Monongahela River, basically towns along it, like McKeesport and other towns. And the orchestra hired nine teachers — flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, etc. — and we had over 400 students from eight school districts. Those young people — after five years, they had two lessons a week — they got full scholarships at Michigan, Michigan State, Eastman School of Music, Baylor.

“I am working very hard with a group of people there now, to establish a program called Winds Over the Glades, where we will hopefully incorporate the school districts and redo that same kind of a program,” he went on.

“That’s what I want to do in the Pahokee area, in the Glades area, is to help to train these young people so they can go to college and be just like that chicken farmer. I mean, they all have dreams. We need to help with those dreams. And I’ve learned, a long time ago, that when all those dreams are mine, they’re also my mother’s and father’s. So all of this transfers down to the family as well. And that’s important today, more important than ever.”

He and Kathleen started the ball rolling Tuesday in Pahokee, meeting at the Chamber of Commerce with a number of people who share his passion and desire to assist in making his vision a reality, including Palm Beach County School Board member Marcia Andrews, who promptly got administrators on the telephone and began laying plans.

 

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