Thursday, April 15, 2010

Alfred Symphonic Band Concert, April 23

Trumpet and French horn solos abound in the next concert for Alfred University's Symphonic Band - 8 p.m. in Harder Hall on April 23rd. The guy behind the trumpet started playing when he was 9 years old – Alejandro Miranda-Bermudez.
At Spencerport Elementary, students were welcomed into the instrumental music program in fourth grade. Alejandro’s parents asked him if he was interested. “Sure,” he remembers saying.
Mr. Rossiter, the teacher, asked Alejandro what he’d like to play and the answer was, “Trumpet.”
There was no enticing Alejandro with trombones, saxophones or percussion toys – not once he decided that trumpets are, “loud, noisy and sounded awesome.” Decision made, on trumpet he started and on trumpet he stayed.
He played in symphonic bands from the start and in 8th grade joined the jazz band. Alejandro was accepted into the most demanding levels of band and so was able to travel around the country to perform. That he accepted the extra work and commitment is interesting because he claims to be “a little lazy” and says his parents “made” him practice. It doesn’t seem to be a lazy choice.
After high school, Alejandro thought he would go to his “top pick” – Fredonia - but appeased his parents with a visit to Alfred University and that was it. With the same certainty that he became a trumpet player, he selected Alfred. He says he can’t pinpoint why Alfred felt so right. (Maybe the campus was loud, noisy or in some way awesome that day.) AU accepts students in groups without forcing a minor in the field and that was a big plus. Alex knew that he wanted to keep music in his life but not as the focus of his study.
During his 4 years on campus, Alejandro spent a lot of time in the Miller Center and grew to appreciate the professors. “The people in Miller are great. You couldn’t ask for a better faculty.” smiled Alejandro. “Dr. Foster is an awesome professor and it’s been great learning from him.”
Alex has gotten to know the professors in Miller because somehow this “lazy” guy played with the Symphonic Band and Orchestra for 7 semesters each while shoehorning Brass Ensemble into 4 semesters and, for really loud and noisy stuff, managed a season of Pep Band. That’s a lot of time in Miller Hall with his trumpet all while maintaining high grades in his major field of Psychology. Alejandro said, “It’s about prioritizing and organizing.”
His favorite piece in this concert is Mother Earth composed by David Maslanka in 2006. The piece is the essence of musical variety - seemingly unrelated and disparate parts that come together and make sense when played well.
Next year Alejandro hopes to attend graduate school saying that in his field he needs an MS for most positions. Hopefully he’ll find one with an open band or orchestra policy such as AU.
On the other side of the Symphonic Band seating you’ll find Ben Esham with his French horn. Ben’s family found the level of organization and dedication needed to raise 4 children and get all of them to both violin and other (French horn, oboe and flute) lessons.
Benjamin is a senior at Alfred University and a member of the Symphonic Band set to perform on April 23rd. Benjamin talked about his experience with music, starting as a second grade violinist under the instruction of a husband and wife team’s elementary string program, a program that Benjamin’s younger siblings also attended. Right now the program is being threatened with budget cuts but Benjamin’s and other parents are working to keep the program intact – further evidence that the Esham family values all the embellishments that music can bring to life.
In addition to studying violin and horn, Benjamin also spent a bit of time with a trumpet in Jazz band and with a mellophone (what a flute player might see as a trumpet/French horn blend) for marching band. He finished his high school marching career as Drum Major, a task requiring conducting and leadership skills. The Geneseo band marched in street shows where Benjamin led 90 students from a high school population of 240. That’s impressive.
Geneseo’s band also traveled so Benjamin went to Charleston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Trips like that mean intense rehearsals and a ton of fundraising too.
After high school, Benjamin chose Alfred University because of “a very nice scholarship” but also because he liked the location, the size of the school and that he could play in the band or orchestra without having to major in music. While Benjamin has spent uncounted hours in AU performance groups - Symphonic Orchestra for seven semesters, Symphonic Band for 8 semesters and all 4 years in Pep Band - he chose to minor in chemistry, not music.
Benjamin came to Alfred as a National Merit Scholar and he maintained high standards throughout his studies as shown by his induction into Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. His coursework was likely demanding because keeping that chemistry minor company is a pair of majors - math and physics. Benjamin plans to study theoretical high-energy physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after leaving Alfred.
Benjamin’s favorite piece in this concert is Sanctuary by Frank Tichelli. “It’s beautiful the whole way through. It’s soft and reflective at the start and builds to intensity in the middle but it’s consistently beautiful,” he feels.
The performance of Sanctuary, in all its beauty and strength will be dedicated to Julie Taylor Ogden, a woman of great beauty and strength, who played with the group before her life was dictated by pain and claimed by cancer.
Benjamin said that he’s really been impressed with Dr. Chris Foster, director of the band. “He built the band from a really small group into an ensemble that has gotten larger and better every semester.”
The Symphonic Band Concert invites you to an impressive one-hour collection of contemporary music written expressly for symphonic band. Selections include Samuel Hazo’s jubilant “Exultate,” Steven Bryant’s pensive “Bloom,” and Dana Wilson’s dry and rhythmic “Colorado Peaks.”
The concert will be in Holmes Auditorium, Harder Hall, on Friday, April 23 at 8 p.m. It’s free, open to the public and a dignified start for Hot Dog Day weekend. Enter Harder Hall on the uphill side through the multiple glass doors. Turn right to Howell Hall auditorium.

No comments: