Virginia Tech Symphonic Wind Ensemble to Play at Carnegie Hall

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My first front-page, headline story for the Collegiate Times!

CollegiateTimes.com.

Symphonic Wind Ensemble performance at the Kennedy Center in 2011.

Symphonic Wind Ensemble performance at the Kennedy Center in 2011.

The Virginia Tech Symphonic Wind Ensemble will travel to Carnegie Hall to perform for the New York International Music Festival this April, but not without the support of local businesses and a Kickstarter online donation campaign.

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed at the Kennedy Center in 2011 under an organization called World Projects, who also puts on the New York International Music Festival every year as well as several other music festivals in different venues.

“I believe that they saw that we are a good ensemble,” said junior Ben Lawson, president of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and saxophone player. “I would consider us miles ahead of where we were two years ago. We carry that Virginia Tech pride and show it through our music.”

After receiving the invitation to play in the festival last year, the music department agreed to fund the costs associated with the performance venue at Carnegie Hall. However, students were also responsible for paying their share as well. According to Travis Cross, conductor of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and assistant professor of music, it was necessary to leave a “small component that will be up to the students to fund individually.”

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble has held fundraising events at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, Frosty Parrot and Moe’s and has also raised money through events like Honor Band and Bandarama, which showcase the music department.

“The local businesses have really given graciously of their venues to create opportunities for us to fundraise and we’re very appreciative for that,” said senior Laura Schneider, bass clarinet player and vice president of the ensemble.

Along with fundraising nights at local restaurants and contributions from Hipeak Sportswear, the group also created a page on Kickstarter, a website aimed at helping projects raise money.

“The idea behind the Kickstarter was to give those students another opportunity to raise some money to help support their participation in the trip and,” Cross said. “It’s been very successful.”

In addition to fundraising efforts, the Elemental Winds, a smaller ensemble comprised of musicians in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, spread the word about their invitation to Carnegie Hall by performing live on 101.5 fm, a radio station in the Roanoke area.

“It’s refreshing, as a music major, to see people who understand how important (the arts) are to the community as a whole,” Lawson said.

Without fundraising, it would have cost several hundred dollars for each student to be able to travel with the ensemble.

“What we’re trying to do is to raise money so that the student cost is as low as humanly possible,” Schneider said.

The ensemble members, along with the officers, have volunteered to help in the effort.

“It’s really nice getting some of the ensemble members to volunteer (for the events), it brought all of us together and made it an ensemble effort rather than all the officers doing the work,” Lawson said. “We wanted everybody to be involved. It’s not about us, the officers, it’s about all of us in the ensemble.”

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble has been promoting the Kickstarter through social media and word of mouth.

As of yet, they have collected $1,725 in donations through Kickstarter, which is $225 more than the minimum goal of $1,500 set by the Wind Ensemble’s student organization. The amount of success from the Kickstarter came unexpectedly.

“We reached our goal in five days,” said Lawson, “which really shows the willingness of people to support the art community.”

All 50 students in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, mostly comprised of music majors, will be able to travel to New York City for the performance.

“We wanted it to be an opportunity, so if you’re a good enough musician and you make it in the ensemble, you travel with it to Carnegie Hall, we didn’t want…to turn away some of the best musicians because of a money problem,” said Schneider.

Among those performing at the festival will be the Los Angeles Children’s Orchestra, Calle Mayor Wind Ensemble and Tesoro Strings.

“We’re really thrilled about the opportunity to go play in a world-class performance space and to go take Virginia Tech on the road,” Cross said.

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble will be performing the showcase ensemble at the end of the night, following three high school and middle school groups from all over the country.

“It’s going to be an all-American program,” Cross said.

The opening piece will be the “Overture to Candide” by Leonard Bernstein, which was originally premiered in Carnegie Hall, followed by a piece that Cross wrote called “Memento.”

The performance will also premiere a piece by Tech alumnus Scott McKenzie, currently an assistant conductor for the United States Army Field Band. The piece, called “Groovy Loops,” will be conducted by Dave McKee, director of the Marching Virginians. The closing piece will be David Maslanka’s “Symphony No. 4.”

“It is going to be so incredible to get on the stage at Carnegie Hall ready to prove why we should be playing there,” Schneider said.

Cross anticipates a similar turnout at Carnegie Hall as they had at the Kennedy Center two years ago of students, family members and band directors.

“It’s nice to go into one of these places that has a lot of history, that has great acoustic[s] and share our music around the world,” Cross said.

The Symphonic Wind Ensemble also expects to travel to local high schools to put on music programs after the International Music Festival, similar to in past years.

“We are not just doing what’s expected of us,” Schneider said. “We’re expected to play on campus and to do all those things and we are certainly supported and have those opportunities without cost to us. We are able to do commencement tours and outreach to high schools in Virginia, but this is an effort to do what we’re capable of, not just what’s expected of us and so in going above and beyond what is the status quo you incur a little more financial commitment.”

According to Schneider, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble is rapidly approaching a minimal student cost and has significantly decreased the expected financial contribution of each musician.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to perform in a fantastic place,” Lawson said, “and something that you as a musician truly do live for.”

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