UMD student bands impress as they return to in-person performances


The breaths quickened as David Neely’s hands hung over the glitz and glamor of the Thalea String Quartet in the Dekelboum Concert Hall at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on October 8.

The first notes the University of Maryland students have played in front of an audience since March 2020 were from Jessie Montgomery’s “Banner,” a play that investigates the patriotism of the United States.

The Thalea String Quartet is a scholarship quartet, one of three scholarship ensembles, at the music school of this university. All four musicians played thoroughly with excellent execution, bringing their own character to the bow and reminding us of what we missed most in live music.

The symphony orchestra is an ensemble of music majors here at the university. Their program included pieces by under-represented composers and classic masterpieces such as “Nabucco Overture” by Giuseppe Verdi and “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland.

After the intermission, the second half of the concert opened with a low brass chorale composed of three trombones and a tuba, filling the hall with warm and pure sound welcoming the audience back to their seats.

“We feel a little more optimistic, but we haven’t done it for a long time. I think ‘Va, pensiero’ was what we felt for a long time, ”said Neely, director of orchestral activities. The “Opening to Nabucco” was a hopeful prospect for the future, in the hope that things would improve.

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Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, a well-known composition, was brilliantly put together. The soloists performed with virtuosity and emotion. The piece had recognizable themes, and yet I still felt like I was listening to it for the first time. The sustained final note was lifted with Neely’s hands, carrying her in silence as people in the audience froze in awe.

University music students were particularly resilient and patiently waited for this moment. They were eager to perform for the campus community again – and they didn’t disappoint.

Mark Wakefield, director of instrumental ensembles, and Aaron Muller, senior assistant director of productions and operations, were key to ensuring that students had the space and facilities to rehearse and perform safely and effectively in the Dekelboum this semester. Students were able to make the most of it – especially wind musicians, continuing to wear modified masks.

“Our students have been great to understand that… adaptability and flexibility are things that serve you well as a musician and that… we are all in the same boat. We are all going through this together and making the most of it, ”said Wakefield.

The wind orchestra performed the following night in the Dekelboum concert hall.

The lush sounds of the ensemble swelled with a force that moved everyone along with it. The ensemble’s beautiful and delicate interpretation of “Seascapes” by Ruth Gipps, conducted by graduate student Alexander Scott, who conducted without score and guided the ensemble with an impressive memory. Every note was confident and the reverb that followed made sure you knew it again.

Dr. Michael Votta, conductor, then conducted his ensemble through “Kammersymphonie No. 1” by Arnold Schoenberg.

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A string quartet took center stage, supported by a double bass and ten winds. The group filled the room with the sounds of unusual color waves. But the Wind Orchestra played it with a familiar tongue and ear.

After the intermission, the wind orchestra performed a composition titled “Kung Fu” by Shuying Li, who was present at the concert. The ensemble presented a world of color with excellent execution and exciting percussion elements. Their excitement bounced back on stage, landing straight into the audience’s hands as their applause rang out.

Li took the stage and praised his excellent work, and also expressed his gratitude for the impeccable performance.

The Wind Orchestra concluded the performance with Jules Strens’ “Funambulesque Dance”, with sweeping sounds in the tutti wind choir with captivating elements such as powerful trombone glissandos. Audiences had visions of “death-defying feats of a circus tightrope walker,” as described in the program.

Votta expressed her relief to finally be back on stage.

“Being in a room full of people experimenting with music together – there’s nothing like it, and I didn’t really appreciate how wonderful it was until I couldn’t do it.” , did he declare.

Music graduate student Kyle Glasgow also shared his joy for the return of live performances, despite the restrictions.

“I’m happy that people can come and experience the concert,” he said.

The music school offers many exhilarating concerts that you shouldn’t miss. You can attend the symphony orchestra with the university choir on November 12 or see the wind orchestra on November 13 later this semester.


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