ALFRED: Alfred University’s Performing Arts Department attracts students from all areas of study. Many students choose Alfred because they can continue their experiences in performing arts without committing to the rigors of a performance major or minor. Three such students, Kyle Merrifield, Katie Weiss and Jay Horwath, talked with me about their musical experiences as they prepared for the
Alfred University Symphonic Band Concert. (Friday, December 9, 7:30 pm Miller Performing Arts Center. Admission is free and open to all.
Kyle came to Alfred from Amherst, NY to study Renewable Energy Engineering. He chose Alfred because it was close to home, because he could continue to participate in instrumental performances and because he could compete in his high school sports – bowling, tennis and volleyball.
Kyle began his musical career, like so many others, in fourth grade. He chose percussion because percussionists play several instruments. Mallets are his favorite. During some rehearsals Kyle will jam a set of mallets under an arm as he plays with a different set. Suddenly, he will switch mallets and zip over to a different instrument or he’ll hammer a chime.
Kyle said the different mallets give different sounds. A harder mallet compares with woodwinds playing staccato while a softer mallet creates the legato articulation.
Kyle played percussion from 4th through 12th grade but also picked up the French Horn in 7th grade just for the experience. While in high school, Kyle traveled to Chicago and Washington DC to compete in symphonic band competitions and do some sightseeing. He said it was always interesting to hear several groups play the same piece and have all sound different.
One great thing about AU is that Kyle is able to be a die-hard football fan and a percussionist at the same time. Kyle bangs on the drums with the Pep Band at all home football games.
For the upcoming concert, he notes that My Shot from the musical Hamilton is his favorite piece. For that piece he will set aside mallets to give his first rap performance on a stage. His only other public rap was the conclusion of a presentation on geothermal energy. That rap, a big hit in class, was his own creation.
After graduation Kyle will work in the solar or wind industry. Right now there are more people employed in renewable energy fields than in fossil fuels.
“I’m thankful for the opportunities to continue in performance arts here at Alfred. My life goal is to be well a rounded individual and my experiences in athletics and music help me attain that.“
Katie came to Alfred from Rome, NY to major in Bio-materials Engineering. She hopes to help design new and better orthopedic medical implants. She told me that the research & developing in joints is constant. Doctors want implants that are easier to insert and everyone wants them to last longer and work better.
Engineers work with an array of materials and try to improve attachment systems. Implants are used to replace aging arthritic joints but also to replace joints damaged by traumatic injury.
Katie will play French Horn in the concert and you’ll hear her on some solos. She regularly plays trumpet with Pep Band, sometimes plays French Horn in the orchestra and always plays Tuba in "Tuba Christmas."
Tuba Christmas is a national organization that helps to arrange regional groups to perform in December. The group has only tubas, euphoniums and baritones (essentially little tubas). She has played with groups of about 40 members but hopes to play with the New York City group one year. That group draws a few hundred performers.
Katie chose Alfred because it is a small community and AU offered the program she wanted. She was attracted by the fact that she could play in the musical groups here because rehearsal times give her a break from study.
As an added bonus, she met Scott DiFranco-Norton. Scott recruited her for pep band student but that was just the start of their time together. They were recently engaged and will live in Mahwah, NJ, where Katie will work, after they marry in June.
In this concert, Katie’s favorite piece is Star Wars. Katie is a Star Wars fan. In high school, she and her best friends would make costumes and go to the films. Her favorite character is 3CPO so Katie's nickname is KTPO.
Katie said, “Music is my source of sanity here. It gives me a break from study and is totally different from my normal class work.”
Jay is one of the rare students who did not start music lessons in 4th grade. Instead, this senior in glass engineering with a chemistry minor started working with a trumpet in 8th grade.
In the summer before eighth grade, Jay went to his grandfather's house to help clean out a closet. Jay had been fooling around with a guitar but wanted to start taking lessons. That day, they dug his Grand Dad's trumpet of the closet. It was the perfect time for a first trumpet lesson.
Jay chose to attend AU because of the glass engineering program but the fact that he could play in Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Pit Band and Orchestra without competing with music majors was a bonus.
Jay said, "Having the opportunity to do so much with music has made me more rounded. Working with and learning from people with different perspectives has been a another benefit of my music experience."
Jay's favorite piece in the December concert is Olympic Fanfare. He likes it because it's challenging and fun as well as familiar because of the number of times it was played during the recent Olympic Games.