Month-by-Month with the 2008-09 Concordia Wind Orchestra

Last year, I wrote this short piece to give prospective students an idea of what the CWO experience entails. It may be one year outdated, but it still provides useful insight.

Several months in the life of the Concordia Wind Orchestra, 2008-09:

August: A new school year begins. Week of Welcome is loaded with orientation activities, reunions of friends, and CWO auditions. Before classes begin, all major ensembles hold auditions to determine student placement within the ensemble. The CWO audition consists of three sections: a prepared etude, an excerpt from the upcoming years' literature, and 4 scales selected at random from the major, minor, or chromatic scales. On the first day of rehearsal, five students were congratulated for receiving perfect scores (2 freshmen flutists, and the principal clarinetist, bassoonist, and saxophonist). With student placement complete (sometimes adjustments are made during the semester), rehearsals begin in earnest for the fall concert.

September: The ensemble rehearses hard on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-5:15. All students are required to observe the "15-minute standard," which means they are present, warming up and preparing for the rehearsal. This standard applies for call times before performances as well. The biggest surprise for returning students is that Prof. Held has actually softened up and included a 5-minute break during every rehearsal. The trumpet section is particularly appreciative.
There are no performances this month, but the CWO takes part in its annual tradition - the retreat! This year's version is especially adventurous - a camping trip in the Cleveland National Forest (our local mountains that are in Orange County - we're not just all about beaches!). Did I say this would be an adventure? Students were divided into groups and given a meager amount of cash to take care of their responsibilities. In the end, the equipment group managed to secure enough tents and sleeping bags to save on rental and generously gave their left over portion to the dinner group (hey, they wanted to have enough food!). Everything actually went off without a hitch as all the groups did an excellent jobs using their budget and coming up with plenty of food and shelter. The retreat itself was a great time. Once we survived an onslaught of bugs in the late afternoon, they went away and we had a very fun evening of food, frisbee, hacky-sack, tree-climbing, camp golf, and campfire worship. The highlight of the night probably was the tarantula that one of the students coaxed into his hat. After everyone had a chance to pet it and take a few pictures, he was off on his merry way. Everyone successfully survived the night and early morning hike led by Prof. Held's 5-year-old son, and we were on our merry way (after we successfully broke into one of the vans whose driver locked the keys away!). The final act of the retreat was to rejoin civilization, get dressed up and attend a fabulous concert by the American Winds and tuba soloist extraordinaire, Patrick Sheridan.

October: Things are really getting serious in rehearsal now with the fall concert coming up quickly (the 5 minute break stays intact, though!). This year, the Wind Orchestra is preparing an All Saints' Day concert. Probably the most challenging piece is David Gillingham's No Shadow of Turning, pushing our sound control and expressive abilities to the limit. We're also very excited to perform two of Frank Ticheli's most beloved works back-to-back, An American Elegy followed by Amazing Grace.

November: The All Saints' Day concert is a perfect example of the Concordia Wind Orchestra's mission to serve the community as a faith-centered musical ensemble. The concert is filled with challenging, inspiring, and highly-respected works placed in the context of a deeper message. The concert opens with a three portrayals of human grief - a Steven Stucky arrangement of Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary, an Armenian song of sadness and hope called Giligia, by Alfred Reed (accompanied by the image Armenian Sadness,by Fons Heijnsbroek) and Ticheli's well-known An American Elegy. Our faith carries us far beyond sadness though, and this is expressed in the second part of the concert which highlights faith themes of redemption, praise, eternal life, faithfulness, and peace through music selections and narration.
This memorable concert was performed on campus, at a Los Angeles church, and at our area Lutheran high school for their chapel service. An then, in a flash, it was time to think "Christmas!"

December: This is the whirlwind month! Students are frantically finishing major class projects, prepping for finals, and readying performance juries. But this is also the month of Concordia's biggest music event, an unforgettable experience for the performers and audience - our Christmas concerts. The CWO traditionally plays during the 2nd half of the concert, alternating Christmas selections (and sometimes joining) with the Concordia Choir and Master Chorale. After the Concert Handbells take that role in the first half, we have an impressively fast and efficient stage-change, replacing the handbells with the full wind orchestra set-up. We perform to five sold-out audiences each year, and the concert is an Orange County Christmas highlight.

January: One week before classes begin, CWO members report back to campus. It is tour time! After one day of intensive rehearsals, we leave for a four-day tour through California, taking us to Lutheran churches in Paso Robles, Fremont, Santa Maria, Oxnard, and Torrance. This year's tour concert takes on a unique format - an Evening Prayer worship. We have this special liturgy orchestrated by a local composer named Charles Raasch and put all of our tour repertoire in this worship format. We bring soprano Natalie Hovsepian (junior at Concordia) along to do the chanting and sing special arrangements of The Lord's Prayer and a hymn. In the end, this concert/worship hybrid was an excellent example of the Concordia Wind Orchestra's mission as a faith-centered wind band. Seven performances over four days (including one school perforamance and two morning worship services) may sound like a lot, but we still have time for many fun and educational tour excursions. Tours are more than an opportunity for performance outreach. Students also experience many things. This year, we managed a stop at the Niles Silent Film Museum (location where Charlie Chapman made it big), including a screening of a Charlie Chapman film. We also had a lively guided tour of the monarch butterflies that migrate to the Bridges State Beach, followed by a perfect afternoon at Santa Cruz beach (sunny and 70 degrees in January!). And between performances on Sunday, we stopped to tour the Getty Center - one of the world's most spectacular art museums.

February: After the tour, there was no time to rest. Rehearsals began in earnest, with only two weeks to prepare our very popular annual family concert. This year's theme is "SuperMusic for SuperHeroes." A hilarious skit accompanied our concert, with a superpower potion being developed by a Concordia professor, which was stolen by Lex Luther, who trapped Batman, Robin, and Superman, and was finally defeated when all of the kids in the audience who came dressed as superheroes zapped him with their superlollypops combined with the the newly-found power in "Superconductor's" conducting baton. This concert is a community highlight, filling the CU Center with enthusiastic families. After the concert, the patio is filled with superhero-themed kid games led by CWO members with lots of prizes for the kids. This year's concert was taped for broadcast on Irvine City Televison.

March/April: With 20 of our 28 performances behind us already, things calm down a bit for two months. Rehearsals are occupied in preparation for our spring concert and two more outings to area churches for their worship services. This year we are preparing a Palm Sunday service, so we are having Charles Raasch arrange two hymns for the Lenten season: "No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" (whose text makes several marching band references) and "My Song is Love Unknown." Charlie will join us as organist for these settings on Palm Sunday. We'll prepare other music appropriate for Lent, including O Sacred Head Now Wounded by William Latham. The Wind Orchestra is always enthusiastically-received by congregations. Having a wind orchestra in worship is a spectacular and highly expressive way to enhance worship.

May: Our spring concert arrives - a collaboration with the Art Deparment themed, "Sonic Portraits: Music and Art in Synergy." The concert includes all music that is based in the visual arts. The program has large prints of each painting depicted by the music. One of our pieces, Prism by Steve Shafer, is accompanied by a video art installment (and it has an unbelievably beautiful penny whistle solo played by flutist Megan Salgado). Performing Pictures at an Exhibition, Scenes from the Louvre, and Art in the Park challenge and inspire us, but the highlight is a new work composed by junior Christian Guebert. This piece is inspired by three paintings by recent Concordia graduate, Justin Morris.

Closing out the year is our traditional performance at Concordia's commencement ceremonies (Pomp and Circumstance way too many times!). We part ways with our graduates, ready for some rest but reflecting on what has been a landmark year in the history of the Concordia Wind Orchestra.


CUI's tuba instructor, Charlie Warren, releases Music Minus One Tuba CD

Charlie Warren and his Disneyland-based brass quintet, the Pacific Coast Horns, have released a new Music Minus One CD for solo tuba, titled "Take Five." This is a great way for students to learn solo pieces with high quality accompaniment on CD, in regular tempo and slower tempo.

CWO Performs Ticheli's Amazing Grace

The Concordia Wind Orchestra performs for worship at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Orange, CA in 2009. Directed by Jeff Held. Permission granted by Manhattan Beach Music.


The Conductor's Role in Performance Anxiety of Ensemble Members

The July 2009 JRME article about performance anxiety in semi-professional singers revealed some interesting findings about the influence of conductors on their singers' performance anxiety:

84% of singers report that their conductor influences their level of performance anxiety.

To what extent? 59% believe that conductors make a lot or all of the difference in performance anxiety, 29% indicated some difference, and 12% indicated a little difference.

What specific characteristics and behaviors of the conductor induces anxiety?
75% Anxious
31% Negative Mood
18% Weak conducting/rehearsal skills
17% Disrespectful
13% Poor preparation/disorganized
12% Negative body language

What does this mean?
The demeanor of a conductor is very important and has influence on the execution of an ensemble. Conductors should prepare to the extent where they are under control and organized. They also should be careful about negative comments and body language right before the performance.

Ryan, C., & Andrews, N. (2009). An Investigation Into the Choral Singer's Experience of Music Performance Anxiety. Journal of Research in Music Education, 57(2), 108-126.


Concordia - a great alternative to the major university music program

If you are considering Concordia alongside a major university, please consider the following:

Especially if you've already auditioned at a major university, there are some obvious differences between the big music departments and Concordia. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain some not-so-obvious things that hopefully make Concordia a strong alternative.

School size: Concordia is a small school. If you would like to have a significant music education but don't want to be swallowed up in a "factory" of music students, Concordia is the place for you. If you want to be able to take a short walk to the music building to practice in the middle of the day, that is no problem. Our campus is small and and the music buildings are accessible, which is not the case at many major universities. Of course this means that you won't be competing against dozens of motivated musicians on your instrument. In most cases, you'll be one of a few music majors on your instrument. If you are the type of student that has intrinsic motivation, the lack of massive competition won't keep you from being a high achiever. And the close-knit nucleus of music majors who have similar goals as you will become your best friends as you share many experiences.

Becoming a seasoned performer: The flip side of our small size is that you will have numerous high-pressure performance opportunities. You'll be able to compete for the principal chair as a freshman (if you are a particularly strong player) and you won't have to beat out a whole studio of graduate students to get it. Even if you are not the principal player in your section in the Concordia Wind Orchestra, our policy of not doubling parts unless it is necessary for balance (mainly in the clarinet section) means that you will have a playing experience more like what is common in a symphony orchestra - you'll be singularly responsible for your part. The result is freedom to phrase and express your part and make decisions about how to do this. Therefore, you'll be expected to think and execute a high level of musicianship and your part will be very exposed - each performance is high stakes! And our repertoire is advanced college music.
At Concordia, you will become a very seasoned performer. The Concordia Wind Orchestra performs nearly 30 times per year, its associated chamber ensembles perform anywhere from 2-15 times per year. Also, as a soloist you will be expected to perform a piece in a noon recital twice per semester. Students who achieve the 300 level in applied study by their sophomore year are eligible to present a half recital (app. 30 minutes). Juniors give a half recital and seniors give a full recital. And our music department's close association with worship provides an additional layer of performing for soloists and chamber groups. If you want to become a great performer, you'll have plenty of practice at Concordia!

Private Study: Concordia is located in one of the most musician-dense populations in the entire world. When a position becomes available, we have an unbelievable pool of talented candidates. Concordia's teachers are some of the finest in Southern California. Their resumes attest to that (you can read them at www.cuimusic.com/privatestudy.html).

Instrument Access: If you are an instrumentalist that needs access to more than your own instrument, we can accommodate. Percussionists can view our extensive list of outstanding instruments, including a Musser 5-octave marimba at www.cuimusic.com. Trumpet players can check out a C trumpet, piccolo trumpet, D/Eb trumpet, or a flugelhorn. Clarinetists can check out an Eb clarinet, bass clarinet, alto clarinet, or an A clarinet. And we have a new contrabassoon for bassoonists. And all of these instruments are less than 4 years old, and they are top-of-the-line professional models. There are not many schools our size that can boast such a collection of instruments.

Degree: Concordia offers a Bachelor of Arts in music. One of the emphases that you can select is performance. We don't offer a Bachelor of Music degree, which requires more units than a Bachelor of Arts (although many music majors far exceed the number of required music units to graduate). However, a Bachelor of Arts degree fully educates you. Sometimes students are nervous about majoring in music because they are afraid that they are locking themselves into a particular career path. Not so with a bachelor of arts. You will develop your non-musical skills fully - the skills of communication, writing, and thinking. Make no mistake about it, these skills help you stand out in a very competitive fields.

Faith-centered Music: And finally, the most significant thing that makes Concordia distinctive against major universities - Christian ministry. We hear a lot about spiritual connections with music, but at Concordia music affords a spiritual connection with the Lord. Many concerts take sacred themes, and most of our groups perform regularly in worship.

If you want to play music at a high level in a uniquely faith-based way, please consider Concordia. Our facilities may not be as spectacular, but the Concordia Experience more than makes up for this.


What I am looking for in an audition

If your music scholarship audition is coming this month, you are probably wondering what your auditioner is looking for? This is an important question to consider, the answer may surprise you.

First of all, I care a lot less about note accuracy than you probably do. An audition is a one-time shot at showing how capable you will be in a college ensemble. Note correctness provides little information to determine this. Of course, it is important, and a sloppy performance might say something negative about your capability. However, your capability to be a successful collegiate ensemble member will show more clearly in several other (more important) areas. Here are five:

1. Musical Poise - In the Concordia Wind Orchestra, we operate with a minimal amount of doubled parts. This means that it is really a big chamber group. This might be different than your high school band, where you may be one of four or five players on the 2nd trumpet part. Here, we only will use 1-2 players on that part (depending on the piece). I want to see that musicians can handle themselves independently and confidently. I want musicians who make critical judgments about how music ought to sound and then put it into action. When you play your excerpts, for example, don't ask me how to play it. Using your experience, look at the markings on the page, the title of the piece, and the note patterns. Determine the style to the best of your ability, and then execute it.

2. Expression - Music is not just notes. Cognitive research shows that developing musicians are so preoccupied with note and rhythm accuracy that there is little room for them to focus on elements of expression and style. If you play with a tasteful and wide dynamic envelope, and if you add subtle expressive detail from note to note on a journey to complete a phrase, I know that you are moving on in your musical development. And since the Concordia Wind Orchestra has controlled instrumentation, I know that you will add a noticeable expressive element to the ensemble (every individual is magnified in our setting). So, don't just pick a piece that runs you through a lot of fast passages. I'm not listening for the notes, I am listening for how you get from one note to the next. Choose a solo that offers you the chance to express yourself.

3. Control - Expert ensemble playing is a special art. I am listening to how you sustain notes - does your airstream waver, does the sound change unexpectedly, does the intonation shift? An expert ensemble player can play very softly without any of these happening. He also can shade his tone quality, use variable vibrato to make the note expressive, and can release it pristinely. Consider how important control of individual players is - if one member of the ensemble can't taper his sound into the cutoff and can't hold it steady, his deficiency will cover the excellence of the other members. For these reasons, I'll be listening far more carefully to the long notes than the short and fast ones.

4. Intonation - The average person notices timbre more than any other musical element (again, this comes from leading cognitive research). An out-of-tune player changes the timbre of his section from pure to spread and shaky. Any audience member will notice this (even if many of them can't describe the effect). If you show that you can handle the out-of-tune tendency notes on your instrument, I know that you have an intimate procedural knowledge of performance on your instrument. To learn more about intonation tendencies on your instrument, Google it (trumpet intonation tendencies, for example).

5. Who you are - This is critical at Concordia University. We are thinking about paying you through a music scholarship to represent the university. Members of our ensemble interact in significant ways with outsiders. When we go on tour, for example, you will share meals with church members, sometimes sleep at their houses, and you'll have many opportunities to interact with children. I want to make sure my ensemble projects a positive image of Concordia and a positive image for music. Kids don't hear a lot of live music - their interaction with us will be a shaping experience. They'll want to become musicians based on how we perform AND how we carry ourselves. So, briefly, I want players in my ensemble who project a caring and warm personality - a Christian demeanor.

Finally, enjoy your audition!  Why not?  You have invested hundreds to thousands of hours developing your musicianship.  Don't worry, I'll notice what you've invested.  You'll have a chance to play and to discuss music and college life with me.  You are on the brink of a new, very exciting stage in life!


FAQs About College Music

If you are soon to be in college and you are a musician, please take 10 minutes to read this excellent article by Dr. Scott Harris. Although it addresses the perspective of a percussionist, it applies to any musician.
2. Now, I have a few comments to help you understand Concordia's music program...
Should I major in music ed or performance? Another issue to keep in mind is that the typical student working toward a performance career will get a master's degree and often a doctorate in their performance area. Having a broader approach to your undergraduate study will keep more doors open.
But I really want to perform. Do I lose performance opportunities as an education major? At Concordia, most music majors give a senior recital, and many also give a junior recital. It isn't required, but it is rather common regardless of an emphasis in performance, music education, or church music. On top of that, once you achieve the "300 level" on your instrument, you can give a recital - some students get there before their junior year, allowing them to give 3 undergraduate recitals.
How long does the degree take to complete? At Concordia, students should be able to graduate in 4 years. Music Education students might be wise to take an extra semester to accommodate student teaching. This is an advantage of Concordia, since many universities are growingly unable to matriculate music majors in 4 years.
What should I play for an audition? Unlike the scenario explained in Dr. Harris' article, Concordia usually does not have the private teachers sitting in the auditions. However, his point about learning about the teacher you will spend 4 years with is very important. Please get to know Concordia's studio faculty. If you are considering the music major, please contact me about setting up a complimentary lesson with your potential studio teacher.
If I don’t major in music can I still take lessons and play in the band? Concordia is a different environment than what is explained in Dr. Harris' article. Here, many non-majors participate in the top groups and many not only take private lessons, but receive extra scholarship money (in addition to money provided to play in ensembles) to pay for them.

Do you have more questions? Go to www.cui.edu/music for a detailed overview of Concordia's music department. And don't hesitate to contact Concordia music faculty with questions.