MURRAY, Ky. — The wind ensemble and the saxophone choir from the Murray State University Department of Music were recently selected to perform at the 2021 Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) Professional Development Conference, held virtually Feb. 14-20.
The ensembles submitted recordings from previous live performances and were chosen by a KMEA committee through a blind selection process. The ensembles competed against other collegiate ensembles from around the state. Due to the pandemic, the conference is being presented virtually. Instead of performing live at the conference held in Louisville, the ensembles recorded their performances to be shown during the conference.
The wind ensemble is comprised of 56 players of woodwind, brass, percussion, string bass and piano. Their performance took place Tuesday. Selections included “Havana” by Kevin Day; “Reflections in a Tidal Pool” by James Bonney; “Hymn to the Sun with the Beat of Mother Earth” by Satoshi Yagisawa; Movements III and IV from “Brooklyn Bridge” by Michael Daugherty; and “Barnum and Tesla” from Steampunk Suite by Erika Svanoe. The wind ensemble also features guest artist Dr. Amy McCann, assistant professor of clarinet at Murray State.
The wind ensemble is conducted by Dr. Trae Blanco, director of bands and assistant professor of music.
“The opportunity for our students to perform and record in a world-class hall is an incredible opportunity,” Blanco said. “A facility like the Carson Center allows for us to feel professional, showcase our professional playing and to bring together a performance that seems almost impossible during times like these.
“I’m grateful to the students for buying into the process: they had to submit pre-screening recordings over the holiday break, they’ve had extra rehearsals and all while playing wearing masks, using bell covers and maintaining social distancing in rehearsals. We can’t wait to share this art with the campus community and the music community at large later this semester.”
Gavin Hayes, a senior music education major from Metropolis, enjoyed the process of putting a performance together.
“The thing I enjoy the most about playing in the ensemble is the diverse styles of music Dr. Blanco always selects for us to play. That, combined with the various instrumentation on each piece, makes for a great and enjoyable learning experience,” said Hayes, who plays the soprano sax in the saxophone choir and the alto sax 2-2 in the wind ensemble.
The saxophone choir is comprised of 10 players. Their performance took place Wednesday. Selections included “Fanfare” from “La Peri” by Paul Dukas; “Preludio” from “Bachiana Brasileiras No. 4” by Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged by adjunct saxophone instructor Robert Eason; “Moderato, quasi marcia” from “Serenade, op. 44” by Antonin Dvorak; “Overture, Interlude and Scherzo” by Walter S. Hartley; “Salvation is Created” by Pavel Tschesnokoff; and “Allegretto” from “The Golden Age” op. 22 by Dimitri Shostakovich.
The saxophone choir is conducted by professor Scott Erickson, who teaches oboe, bassoon, saxophone, woodwind methods and woodwind chamber ensembles. Erickson is in his 36th year at Murray State and will be retiring at the end of the spring 2021 semester.
“I’m incredibly proud of the saxophone choir and their preparation for KMEA,” said Erickson. “We’ve had many rehearsals where we were missing members of the group due to students quarantining or testing positive, but they have persevered and are prepared to record a great program. All of them are juniors or younger, so the future of saxophone playing here is bright. Being selected to play at the conference is a special way to end my teaching career at Murray State.”
For Rachel Price, a junior chemistry major and music minor from Mt. Vernon, Indiana, participating in the saxophone choir is an enjoyable activity in a challenging day of coursework.
“Playing in the saxophone choir gives me a chance to not only hang out with my friends in the music department, but it also allows me to perform with a smaller group of equally, if not more, talented people playing music that shows everyone’s unique talents,” said Price.