SCSU Symphonic Band tuning up for semester of performances

Tyler KorponaiOnline Editor

Garner Hall erupts with a constellation of sounds and textures as the SCSU Symphonic Band tunes up. Woodwind and brass instruments begin to blend with one another and create music in unison. Conductor Craig Hlavac takes his position at the helm and stands poised to lead this ensemble.

Now in their second week, the Symphonic Band has a great deal of material to polish up. Their first concert won’t be until April, which will be held inside Garner Hall. But they also have a unique performance scheduled in May to remember and honor the victims of Sandy Hook.

The Sandy Hook performance will come hand in hand with a large ceremony in the evening. Moreover, the band will perform an original piece.

“It’s a three movement work commemorating the 5 years since Sandy Hook,” said Hlavac. “That should be a powerful event. The idea was actually to collaborate with Newtown High School and have some of their players sit in with us for the premier. I think some of them may have had siblings at Sandy Hook. We’re hoping that we can have a great connection with that community.”

However, the band will not see that music until March, so for now they are focusing on other arrangements.

“We’re just kind of reading through our new material,” said Hlavac.

A unique feature of the Symphonic Band is the diversity of its members, which is reflected in the material selected for performance.

“We have a mix of different players,” said Hlavac, “faculty, staff, certainly music majors, music minors, people who are majors in many different other areas who just want to come and play. But we also have a different mix of repertoire. Some of the pieces are not too difficult and then some are a stretch.”

Looking forward to the April performance themed around the American Revolution, Hlavac said that there will be a mixture of British and American composers. In particular he is thinking about The Crown Imperial March, which he knows is quite challenging. A famous commencement piece, Hlavac hopes to play it for commencement at Southern later this term.

Sitting with the woodwinds, saxophone in hand, Mathematics professor Joe Fields represents a small fraction of the diversity of players in the band. He has been playing with them for about 14 years now since he first joined and the band was in serious need of help. He jokes that he is not as accomplished as the student musicians but he keeps sitting in with the ensemble for the fun.

With a big smile he laughs and says, “I’m here for comic relief.”

In all seriousness though, Fields is impressed by the musicians attracted to this ensemble. He feels that there are some very talented players joining the band’s ranks, enriching their sound, something the band has done in the past.

“There was a time that we went over to that junior high school that’s across the swamp from Southern’s campus,” said Fields, “and we did a sit down with the kids and their band. Together we played stuff and it was a really cool chance to teach them a little bit and see where they were.”

Responding to a question about what he would say to someone on the fence about joining the ensemble Fields said, “It’s a little bit of work but if you’re willing to put in some practice time, what musicians call woodshedding, you can do it!”

Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai


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