Most Monday nights, the walk back to the dorm is accompanied by the sounds of music floating from the chapel windows. Who would possibly be playing instruments at a time when the rest of us are watching 24?
The dedicated members of the student-led Wind Ensemble have been diligently practicing this semester in preparation for their upcoming concert. Tuesday, April 25 at 8 p.m., the Wind Ensemble is presenting “A Whirlwind of Music,” a celebration of music from around the world.
The president of the W.E., sophomore clarinetist Emily Good, said that the group “wanted to highlight non-western pieces. We will be covering Korea, Mexico, Russia, Egypt and the continent of Africa.”
The secretary of the W.E., junior and flute/trombone playing Jon Smith said of the music, “Although some of the pieces are by American composers they were chosen to reflect influences of other cultures.” Smith has been an officer since the inception of the group two years ago, which was the brainchild of junior Dan Prial.
Junior John Yao, the current conductor (who is also a trumpet player and has been involved since the group began), has a very clear idea of the purpose and benefit of “A Whirlwind of Music.”
“Much of western music has developed into something that is quite ‘decorative,’ ” he said. “In other words, we have to go to a concert or flip on our Ipod if we want to hear music. But non-Western music is largely functional, in that it plays a very active role in daily life (such as dance music, or music for planting crops). In this sense, non-Western music and folk music relates very much to the concept of identity. Its presence in daily functions defines its relation to one’s culture and ultimately becomes a symbol of who one really is. The purpose of this concert is to carry this concept of ‘identity,’ which is so central to a liberal arts education, as well as make the audience more aware of their own identity (and that of other peoples) in this rapidly expanding world.”
Yao’s insight is shared by all the members of the Wind Ensemble. Recent success of the W.E. includes a performance last semester – their very popular “A Night at the Movies” concert that featured songs from movies such as Star Wars and other feature films.
The Wind Ensemble was created from student need, and was started by several students who had a passion for a type of music and playing that was unfulfilled in other areas of campus.
“We started it my freshmen year,” Smith said. “There weren’t a lot of opportunities for wind players to play on campus at the time. You would either audition for one of the few spots in the orchestra, audition for the jazz band (if you happened to play sax, trombone or trumpet) or join the pep band.”
The Wind Ensemble allows these students to play pieces that are more musical and more encompassing of all the instruments that they play – it gives the students a chance, as the equipment manager and first-year Christian Savage said, “to play music in college that isn’t either pep band (which isn’t very musical – just loud) or Orchestra (which is incredibly boring if you’re a brass player).”
Many of the members of the Wind Ensemble are also members of the pep band and of the orchestra. However, they find that the W.E. gives them another outlet to play music similar to what they’ve played before and also a breadth of pieces that opens them up to different cultures.
The independence of this group has given the members the opportunity to do what they want and to express different ideas every semester. First-year Rachel Fowler, the W.E. librarian, is very excited for this concert, and this stems from her appreciation of the fact that the W.E. is completely student-run.
“I really like playing in wind ensemble because it’s the students who get to decide what the ensemble plays,” Fowler said. “We get to choose pieces we want to play and since we find them appealing we believe that other college age kids will like [them] too, that’s the appeal of wind ensemble.”
The members also often learn new instruments as members of the wind ensemble, through their own initiative and dedication to the music. Smith took up trombone and Savage recently began learning the tuba.
The concert will prove to be an exciting and relaxing study break, but it will also serve as an educational and enlightening experience. It will give everyone who goes a chance to hear music they have probably not heard before – enjoyable and fun music, such as “Korean Folk Songs,” which has been performed by the acclaimed B?ela Fleck.
There will also be international food featured in a reception immediately following the concert. Sophomore Angie Lee, the treasurer, added a last plug for this Tuesday: “The upcoming concert is going to be awesome. It’s always really great to be able to share what you’ve been working on all semester.”
The music to be heard in this concert is remarkable, and anyone who attends will be impressed with the tremendous display of student talent. Come out and support the Wind Ensemble, hear some great and different music – and when you’re there, take some advice from Savage, who thinks that it would be “nice to have someone clapping when we finish the pieces.”