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Historic first: U. of I. Wind Symphony to play at Carnegie Hall

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor
217-333-5491; melissa@uiuc.edu

1/25/2006

view from above of U of I Wind Symphony
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by Chris Brown
The University of Illinois Wind Symphony will make its debut at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 17.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The 21st-century incarnation of the ensemble John Philip Sousa once dubbed “the world’s greatest college band” – the University of Illinois Wind Symphony – is tuning up for its debut at Carnegie Hall on Feb. 17.

The concert, scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. in the Isaac Stern Auditorium, also will feature performances by U. of I. School of Music faculty percussionists Ricardo Flores and William Moersch, and by the Illinois Brass Quintet. Members of the quintet are Illinois music professors Elliott Chasanov, trombone; Michael Ewald and Ronald Romm, trumpet; Kazmierz Machala, horn; and Mark Moore, tuba.

The 62 student members of the Wind Symphony will perform under the baton of James F. Keene, the director of bands and the Brownfield Professor of Music at the U. of I. at Urbana-Champaign.

James Keene
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by Bill Wiegand
James Keene, the director of bands and the Brownfield Professor of Music at the U. of I., will conduct at the Carnegie Hall concert.

“This is the first time the band has played at Carnegie Hall, and for many of these students, it will be a life-changing experience,” Keene said. “For some, it may be the first time they’ve played on a major concert stage in New York, and for others, inevitably, it won’t be the last. Though it will be one of – if not the – most memorable experiences of their lives. Not a student will ever forget this.”

The concert will wrap up a weeklong recruitment tour of the New York metropolitan area, where the band will be performing for high school and university audiences.

The Carnegie Hall concert represents one of a series of milestones for the band and for Illinois, which Keene said is generally regarded as the birthplace of the modern concert band.

“Through the years,” he noted, “U. of I. bands have created the most extensive band recording series of all time; these recordings have been sold and broadcast throughout the world.

close-up of clarinet player
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Photo by Chris Brown
The Carnegie Hall concert represents one of a series of milestones for the band and for Illinois, which Keene said is generally regarded as the birthplace of the modern concert band.

“Most recently, the Wind Symphony was featured on Vatican Radio, and its recordings have been on public radio as far away as Prague, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Sidney and Singapore.”

The Carnegie Hall concert is the inaugural event in the University Honors concert series organized by Choice Music Events, a nonprofit group based in Lubbock, Texas. Its president, Jon Locke, said the Wind Symphony was chosen to inaugurate the series because the selection committee “could not think of a more qualified group to perform at Carnegie Hall.”

“Rich tradition, commitment to excellence, and outstanding leadership are qualities synonomous with the University of Illinois Band,” he said, noting that it was those characteristics he hopes will become associated with the series as well.

The Wind Symphony’s Feb. 17 program will include the New York premieres of works by composers Scott Boerma, David Gillingham and Shafer Mahoney, along with pieces by John Corigliano, Percy Grainger, Vincent Persichetti and Frank Ticheli. Another highlight will be the performance of James Curnow’s “Illini Fantasy,” a symphonic arrangement a variety of Illinois-themed songs, including “Illinois Loyalty.”

Keene said 2006 is the 100th anniversary of “Illinois Loyalty” – otherwise known as the university’s school song. The song, written by Thatcher Guild, a U. of I. English professor, was first performed by the U. of I. Military Band on March 3, 1906.

Home audiences at the U. of I. will get a sneak preview of the performance during a concert scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the university’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets for the local concert are available on the Web or by contacting the ticket office, 217-333-6280; 800-527-2849.

Because the New York performance takes place just a few days before the nationally designated President’s Day holiday, Keene said that event has been planned as an opportunity to introduce the university’s new president, B. Joseph White, and new campus chancellor, Richard Herman, to university friends and alumni in New York.

musician
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by Chris Brown
The Carnegie Hall concert is the inaugural event in the University Honors concert series organized by Choice Music Events, a nonprofit group based in Lubbock, Texas. Its president, Jon Locke, said the Wind Symphony was chosen to inaugurate the series because the selection committee “could not think of a more qualified group to perform at Carnegie Hall.”

White and Herman will attend the concert and also will be the featured guests at a reception the following day sponsored by the U. of I. Alumni Association and the Illinois Alumni Club of Greater New York. The reception, hosted by Illinois alumnus and Fox Television president Dennis Swanson, will be held from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 at Club 101, located at the corner of Park Avenue and 40th Street in Manhattan. The reception is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. Reservations will be accepted through Feb. 9 by calling 800-355-2586 or sending e-mail to alumni@uillinois.edu.

Tickets for the concert may be purchased through the Carnegie Hall box office at 212-247-7800. For information about purchasing group ticket blocks (for groups of 30 or more), contact Peter Griffin, U. of I. assistant director of bands, at 217-333-3028.