Spotlight: Concert Band participation at an all-time high

Author: Shannon Chapla

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| Concert Band with guest conductor Jorgen Rokne (nephew of Knute Rockne) in Voss, Norway ||
p. The oldest college band in continual existence, the University of Notre Dame Band is steeped in tradition and has earned its calling card as one of the University’s lasting legacies. In fact, the band’s rich history began long before the formation of the storied football team with which it is so closely associated.p. Founded in 1845, the Notre Dame Concert Band existed 42 years before the marching band began introducing the world to pageantry and precision drill. What began as a very small group in the University’s early days, now is overflowing with musicians eager to master the challenging repertoire.p. Several years ago, students were limited to only one concert band opportunity each spring semester. That changed in May 2000, with the debut of an expanded band program featuring the Symphonic Winds and the Symphonic Band, and three performances each semester. There now are greater opportunities for a variety of students at every musical level, and as a result, participation in the Notre Dame Concert Bands has increased by more than 600 percent.p. “The monumental increase reflects an effort to fulfill students’ needs and musical tastes,” said Kenneth Dye, director of bands. “The concert band used to build its entire season around a spring break tour that programmed very light repertoire. We made a decision to tour more extensively after Commencement, rather than during spring break, and this immediately interested more students and allowed us to increase the musical challenge of the repertoire. In addition, students also appreciate a more conducive schedule and the chance to tour overseas.”p. “The expansion has provided me with more opportunities,” said senior drum major Jeff Serpas, from Metairie, La. “It debuted during my freshman year, which is when I joined the Symphonic Band. The increased number of groups has allowed for greater student participation. Some are more selective than others, but there really is a place for everyone.”p. Some 240 musicians comprise the three concert bands. Symphonic Winds has close to 50 members, Symphonic Band is 80-strong, and University Band, which includes faculty, staff and students, has up to 110 members.p. “Concert band is pure music,” Dye said. “It offers students the opportunity to work on musical fundamentals, sensitivity and emotion, without the distractions of an athletic event, the weather, and the difficulty of a choreographed marching routine. Because it is selective, Concert Band draws the most rewarding group of students to work with. Those who audition for concert band are highly motivated to be there and perform their best.”p. Dye came to Notre Dame in 1998 from Rice University, where he was director of bands for 17 years and served 14 years as conductor of the Houston Concert Band. He served as the arranger of music for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, assistant band director for the 1984 Olympics, and director of the Opening Ceremonies of the U.S. Olympic Festival and the All-American College Band at Disney World. Dye previously was director of bands at State University of West Georgia and taught public high school in Lakewood, Calif. As a composer and arranger, he serves as a staff writer for several publishers, music director for numerous special events, and clinician/adjudicator throughout North America.p. Dye’s work with the Olympic Games in Sydney will be revisited this spring during a milestone concert planned as part of the Concert Band’s upcoming New Zealand/Australia tour. The Notre Dame Band will perform May 27 in the world-famous Sydney Opera House. The repertoire will include original faculty compositions and a summary of the musical memories from the Olympic Games in Sydney.p. “We normally don’t perform faculty compositions during our concerts here on campus,” Dye said, “but it is appropriate to perform them on tour. Having composed a number of pieces in New Zealand and Australia, I feel it is befitting to showcase a variety of styles that display the American band tradition, Maori music and rhythms of New Zealand, and the pageantry of the Olympic music I wrote.”p. The Concert Band will host additional performances at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 in Washington Hall in conjunction with Junior Parents? Weekend, and at 7:30 p.m. April 26 in Washington Hall. Members will perform during a tour of the Chicago area April 17-18, and end the academic year with a Commencement weekend performance at 6 p.m. May 14 on the lawn in front of the Main Building.p. Assistant directors of bands are Lane Weaver, Samuel Sanchez and Larry Dwyer, who also is director of jazz studies.p. More information on the Concert Band is available on the Web at http://www.nd.edu/~ndband/

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