The Symphony Band goes ‘Baroque’

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 6:02pm

Dana Pierangeli

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The University of Michigan’s historic Symphony Band’s first performance of the year is set to take place on Sept. 27 in Hill Auditorium. The theme of the evening is “Almost Baroque.”

Jordan Smith is a first year special in flute performance, having previously completed a Masters degree at the University. After a ninth month hiatus from Symphony Band, Smith is thrilled to be stepping back on the Hill Auditorium stage. 

“My favorite part of being in Symphony Band is being immersed in music making at the highest level,” Smith said. “My colleagues are truly inspirations to me. Every instrumentalist in this ensemble is a professional.”

The band makeup ranges from grad students and specialists, like Smith, to a few talented underclassmen. Jason Frazier, a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree in saxophone performance, is one of these underclassmen. This is his first term in Symphony Band, and he is thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of such a historic ensemble.

“I think our history sets us apart from other instrumental groups, and part of our history is being pioneers in the American band movement,” Frazier said. “Dr. Revelli, the original director of the symphony band, was very adamant about each instrument having its own professor dedicated to that instrument. That insistence made U-M the first university in the United States to have a professor that only taught saxophone and to offer a degree program in saxophone performance.”

As a young saxophone player, Frazier recognizes those who came before him who pushed for his instrument to be included in the band. 

“I think the most challenging thing for me so far has been having to fill in the really big shoes that this ensemble has. This is such a historic ensemble, and it was key in the establishment of the saxophone as a legitimate concert instrument,” Frazier said. “It really is an honor to be part of that history.”

Professor Michael Haithcock directors the University Symphony Band. As one of the top bands on campus, the group works hard to maintain a level of excellence. 

“The Symphony Band differs from most ensembles on campus because of trust. Professor Haithcock trusts us and expects us to be ready for each rehearsal coming in with questions or ‘hitting the save button’ on things we rehearsed one day and not having to repeat those same things,” Smith said. “This ensemble has a very long legacy of being one of the greatest ensembles at the collegiate level.”

“(Professor Haithcock) picked Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano as the ‘anchor piece’ for the concert, and then he built the theme around that. Since the Stravinsky is heavily influenced by J.S. Bach and Baroque forms, he thought to have the rest of the program be influenced by Baroque music to some extent,” Frazier said. The evening will consist of a wide variety of classical music, featuring pieces such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Toccata Marziale,” Anne Clyne’s “Masquerad,” and David Maslanka’s “Traveler.” 

The concert will also feature a pre-concert talk at 7:15 p.m. in the lower lobby of Hill Auditorium with Dr. Liz Ames, the piano soloist for the Stravinsky Concerto, Professor Haithcock and Michael Daugherty, the composer of the last piece on the concert. The talk-back and concert are both free, ensuring no one has to go “baroque” to see it. With a dedicated group of students, a fantastic line-up and a legacy of excellence to back them up, every Symphony Band concert is history in the making.