University Band: an ‘eclectic group’ of individuals

Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

The SCSU University Band played to the filled Charles Garner Recital Hall in Engleman C112 on Thursday, April 25.

The sets included upbeat, vivacious pieces as well as calming, melodic pieces that utilized every instrument in the ensemble, from marimbas to clarinets to saxophones to the bassoon.

Interim associate dean of the School of Arts & Sciences Craig Hlavac said his goal as band director was “to present something that’s musically interesting to the audience.”

Generally, Hlavac said he tries to pick selections of music to give the concert a theme. The one performed Thursday evening was not thematic, he said.

“This one was a little bit more eclectic at, at selections that were very standard for the, for the wind band,” said Hlavac, “and we also had some that were very much more contemporary and, and a little bit more dissonant.”

Good repertoire selection, Hlavac said, should be inclusive in featuring every instrument present in an interesting way.

Bassoonist Katie Buckheit was the concert’s featured soloist.

“I was very honored to be asked to perform a concerto with the band, especially because I am not a music major or a graduating senior,” said Buckheit, a junior, communication disorders major and music minor. “It was very kind of Dr. Hlavac to ask me to do it, and I was very flattered that he saw promise in my playing.”

According to Hlavac, music majors and minors perform at least once a year in front of a panel of faculty called the jury. It was during Buckheit’s freshman year when he said he “heard her play a phenomenal jury.”

By the end of Buckheit’s sophomore year, Hlavac said he approached her about performing a solo and had her begin to search for music that would feature her instrument best with her instructor of seven years, Sue Zoellner-Cross.

Buckheit said she had been preparing with her instructor for the concert for about six months on a weekly basis.

“Practices are generally working through, you know the repertoire that we selected through the concert,” said Hlavac. “It starts out pretty rough.”

All formal rehearsals, Hlavac said, took place during the over two-anda-half hour Thursday evening band class due to various conflicting schedules of the group. However, he said many students would take the initiative to practice on their own.

Biology and music double major Jillian Valeta, a freshman and B-flat clarinet player, said she prepared for the performance by practicing on one of the many practice rooms in Earl Hall and in her dorm room.

“I was very nervous,” said Valeta. “This is my second concert in college. I feel like the music really, life – it such, more of like – kind of you have to feel it. You have to learn how to let the music kind of take control of you and not let the music – not let you control the music.”

Each song, Valeta said, has its own voice and story to tell.

Performing in college, unlike high school, Valeta said, has been nervewracking because of the varying skill levels in the ensemble. However, she said it was a welcoming challenge, from which she has learned a lot.

“In that regard, it really is a unique ensemble and a very, a very safe ensemble,” Hlavac said.

In most colleges, Hlavac said the overall mission of a university band is to focus on training future professional musicians, which includes faster pacing, elevated skilllevels, and competition amongst the group.

“We want to still perform really, you know, challenging – challenging repertoire at a high level,” said Hlavac. “We want to do that so that everybody can access that.”

If the band had strict requirements like conservatories or institutes for the study of classical music and other arts did, Hlavac said music minors and students who use music as an outlet would be at “a disservice.”

This semester’s wind ensemble, Hlavac said, was an “eclectic group” compromised not only of students, but of professors, alumni, and community members as well.

“[A previous band director] told me about this, this research that said people that got involved with music stuck with their schooling,” said math professor Joseph Fields. “That, you know, it was a really good way to keep students involved and so I was like, ‘Well, I gotta support that.’”

According to Fields, during a conference he attended years ago about music and math, he and a room full of mathematicians all said they could read sheet music.

“Usually when I hang out with musicians I can’t say, ‘Hey do you know Calculus?’” said Fields. “They, they don’t get it, but math people are – there’s some connection somehow in the math gene and the music gene.”

Photo Credit: August Pelliccio

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