SMTD readies its Halloween orchestra concert

Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 12:10pm

It’s that time of year again: carving pumpkins, hoping it won’t snow on Halloween weekend and getting ready for the School of Music, Theater and Dance’s annual Halloween Concert. While one of those things may appear to be different than the others, SMTD students consider the Halloween Concert to be a pivotal part of the autumn season

“I have been fortunate enough to play in the Halloween Concert every year I’ve been at Michigan – it’s really a highlight of the season for me,” Teagan Faran, a junior studying Violin Performance, said.

The Halloween Concert is not a typical orchestral concert. The group is huge, combining both of the University’s orchestras combine to make a single orchestra of around 140 people, and the orchestra and its conductors all wear costumes. With rotating student conductors, short and lively pieces in the theme of both Halloween and the Presidential Election, the Halloween Concert will be one of the spookiest and entertaining orchestra events you will attend.

Not to mention, there are an abundance of special “guest artists” at this year’s concert. The concert will include Carol Hutchins, the head coach of the University’s softball team and John Pasquale, the director of the Michigan Marching Band. Ken Kiesler, the director of University Orchestras and Professor of Conducting, said there will even be a surprise guest attending and playing with the orchestra this year.

Although the music doesn’t have a strict focus on Halloween music, the concert presents a different kind of music that offers a change from what the ensembles usually perform.

“I really appreciate how Michigan avoids programming purely ‘pop’ music for this event so we can share more obscure but equally exciting music with our audience,” Faran added.

While this event is an exciting one each year, this year marks the 40th anniversary of SMTD’s Halloween Concert. Over the past 40 years, many schools and orchestras have modeled their own concerts off of this one.

“Halloween concerts are all over the place,” Kiesler said.

US News currently ranks the University’s graduate conducting program the best conducting program in the country, and the Halloween Concert provides the students in this highly competitive and rewarding program to practice and show off their conducting skills to a large audience. Not only can these conductors-to-be show off their ability to take charge of such a large group of musicians, but also show off their ability to have fun while performing. The students view collaboration with new, younger conductors as exciting and fun.

“The way the students in the orchestra come together every year for this program is really inspiring - student conductors are featured throughout the program and we combine the university's two orchestras so we get the opportunity to play with musicians we normally wouldn't see in rehearsal,” Faran said.

Kiesler highlighted the difference in environment between the Halloween Concert and other performances by the University’s orchestra.

“It’s a fun time. The auditorium is packed. The event attracts a lot of people,” Kiesler said.