By Mina Truong
The Newman University wind and string ensemble founded last year is up to 34 members this semester. It’s part of an instrumental music department that has seen significant growth in the past two years.
The first concert for the joint ensemble will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 9. in the DeMattias Performance Hall. The concert will be free and the joint ensemble will perform an assortment of holiday and Broadway songs.
Last year, the wind and string ensemble was founded with a few members. This year the group has grown larger. Instrumental Music Director David Baxter said the group will focus on playing advanced material.
“We started this so that students can have an opportunity to play more serious literature,” Baxter said.
The string ensemble is currently made up of 10 members – two alumni and eight current students. Baxter said he thinks the more the word gets out, the more students will show interest.
Junior Anna Perinchery, a violinist, said she enjoys playing because of the diversity of skill levels in the group.
“One has been playing for a semester and another for 10 years,” Perinchery said. “We’re all being challenged in one way or another.”
One of the alumni involved in the program, Denver Shipman, class of 2012, said the group allows him a place to hone his musical talents.
“It gives Newman students and alumni a place to play as a group that we didn’t have before, and as an alumni, I’m glad that there is a place to play with a group of musicians,” Shipman said.
The instrumental program at Newman is comparatively young.
Baxter and his wife, Sarah, have been teaching at Newman for about six years.
The program, which began as individual music lessons, soon gained momentum as students showed a desire to play together.
Baxter said he was delighted to come teach but he thought it would be more beneficial for students to be able to put these lessons into group practices.
“These band and orchestra instruments are far more enjoyable to play in a group,” Baxter said. “I thought Newman deserved a performing ensemble for their musicians.”
Baxter first developed a pep band that would play at sporting events.
He brought up the idea with Deanne Zogleman, director of music, who was supportive of the idea.
Students interested in the band and string programs can enroll in MUS2881, Instrumental Ensemble.
This group will be divided into a string section and a band section. Both sections will reunite for a concert at the end of the year. Students do not have to be enrolled in the class to play in the ensemble.
Baxter is actively recruiting and said he hopes to have information about the wind and string ensembles included on the Newman website soon.
Also, he plans to go to high schools to recruit students to the instrumental program.
If students are interested in playing in the wind and string ensemble, they can reach David Baxter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The string ensemble rehearses at 8 p.m. on Thursday evenings in DeMattias room 251. The wind ensemble rehearses from 10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Baxter said anyone is welcome to sit in on rehearsals.
If students do not have instruments, Baxter encourages students to come speak with him and he will try to accomodate.
Baxter also sponsors the pep band, which has recently changed its name to the “Jets Band.” He said the pep band’s popularity has increased thanks to the enthusiasm of Athletic Director Vic Trilli, who he says, “does whatever he can to help us out to go to this next serious level.”
Baxter said his goal is to help students augment their musical skills by allowing them the opportunity to be challenged by more difficult pieces.
He said he wants to add “high artistic quality” to the Newman musical experience. Baxter said the number of interested students keeps increasing, meaning the program is headed in the right direction.
While he is working on plans to increase interest and provide more opportunities for the ensembles to play and perform, Baxter is also working on plans to develop an instrumental music department.
Part of the requirements for a music minor includes being a member of a Newman musical ensemble. Currently students only have the option to be in Chorale.
Baxter said he hopes students interested in a music minor can complete this requirement through the string and band ensembles.
Baxter said he is considering planning a trip for the ensembles next spring, involving a fundraiser to donate instruments.
The donated instruments would be given to a school in need and NU band members would perform and work with the children.“We want to go out and help other people and share what we do,” Baxter. “That’s a further part of that excitement. We want to share what we do.”