Winds of Culture: A night with UVU’s Wind Symphony

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Classical music has been a source of expression and inspiration for hundreds of years, and so it was also on Oct. 10, 2018 during the Utah Valley University Wind Symphony concert in the Ragan Theatre. The price of entry for students was a modest five dollars, but culture has no price tag.

The concert began at 7:30 p.m. sharp and went straight into the music. The first half of the concert was compositions originally meant for orchestra that were adapted for band instruments. These songs were full of light sounds that were reminiscent of a cartoon, and ring of birdsong and cheerful skips. Every instrument had their own moment in the spotlight, from the stepping lilt of the flutes section to the cymbals shocking crash.

Following the initial music, the conductor, Dr. Thomas Keck remarks about the band’s theme this year, inclusion.

“It is exactly what it sounds like. This year we are trying to draw attention to the underrepresented population. This concert was about band,” Keck said. During the concert itself he had referred to band as the “stepchild” of the music world, and therefore underrepresented.

After the intermission, the band played the song that the concert was named after, From A Dark Millenium, written by Joseph Schwantner, who Keck described as “the most influential band composer.”

“You [the audience] should adjust your ears for percussion as you will not find a melody. This type of music is very difficult but the players have risen to the challenge,” Keck said.

This statement does not exactly instill confidence in an audience. Other people may well have chosen to leave at that interval, but the audience remained seated. An audience made up of young people, old people, and everyone in between, several of whom were dressed rather well.

The song was decidedly darker but remarkable in its delivery. The instruments were no longer individual units, instead they were a paintbrush, all of them contributing to one glorious image, that of a storm. The mysteriously enticing oboe felt like a flood and the flutes an eerie wind. The triangle was somehow audible over the chaos and the trumpets and trombones beat like whipping branches of trees, with the thunder of drums and the rain of piano keys. The xylophone was played with a bow and like lightning.

Alba Cumba Berrocal, leader of the flute section and a musical performance senior said, “I feel good about it [the performance] and had a lot of fun playing with everyone. Rehearsals were a little rough but we really came together.” She also noted that several of her fellow students made similar statements.

These statements begged the question, how many professionals did the group have, especially since some students join music or art classes as a hobby, and who better to ask than Keck. He said, “We actually have a class for that. It’s pretty low stress and meets twice a week, but of this group I would say 90% will pursue it professionally.”

The next Wind Symphony concert is coming up on Dec. 5 and the underrepresented group they are focusing on is women composers.