Mar 24, 2009

Ensemble concerts range from Harlem to Towns

by Amanda Thomason

A heavenly sound rang inside the Towns Auditorium with seats full of people eager to hear what was coming next. Each piece played by Liberty’s Wind Ensemble contained diverse melodies, rhythms and dynamics providing a musical experience for the audience. The students in the ensemble had the privilege of performing in Towns after spending the past week sleeping in basements and residence halls around the Northeast Coast, including Harlem, N.Y., during their spring break.

The concert was held Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Towns Alumni Center, with students and families present to support the ensemble and enjoy the music. Dr. Stephen Kerr directed the musicians in a total of six songs, two consisting of multiple movements. The standing ovation after the scheduled set was rewarded with an encore.
Contributing to the evening’s success was its location in the new auditorium, including the renovations that improved acoustics compared to their previous concerts in the Schilling Center, according to clarinet player and sophomore Katie Marvel.

“The whole concert was amazing but Inchon and the Russian Christmas music were the best pieces performed,” sophomore Mason Moyer said. “The acoustics in the Alumni Hall were phenomenal.”
Days before the concert, the students spent their time recording a CD called “Exultate,” which will be available to the public at the end of April for $10. The CD will include songs from Thursday night’s performance.
Liberty’s Wind Ensemble spent its spring break touring the Northeast Coast, beginning early on March 7. The ensemble spent nine days performing at various schools and churches along the way to Vermont to perform at a ski resort. One exceptionally meaningful concert was at a church in Harlem, Mt. Pleasant Community Church.

“The church has a very important mission to the homeless in the city, yet with very limited resources. This experience helped me know how blessed and privileged we are here in Central Virginia at Liberty University,” Kerr said.

While in Harlem, the ensemble spent time with the members of the church and school, including dinner and time to relax after the concert. The boys slept in the church basement while a few girls stayed at the pastor’s house downtown and the remainder of the group stayed in a nearby residence hall, according to sophomore Lindsey Hammer.

“The people we met there were amazingly generous and we could tell they were very excited to have us play,” Hammer said.

“When I first heard that we were going to play in Harlem, I was nervous because I was concerned for our safety, but when we arrived at the church, the people who greeted us were the most genuine people we had ever met,” senior and saxophone player Amanda Kastner said. “It wasn't the most ‘ritzy’ place we stayed on tour, but it was definitely the most memorable because of the people we met.”

During the tour, the students were able to spend some free time in Washington D.C. and Vermont, which included a day at the Okemo Mountain Ski Resort.

“The most challenging part of being in the ensemble was the tour. We played for nine days straight and by the end we were exhausted. Even though we were tired, it paid off because it helped us be extremely prepared for our concert,” Marvel said.

The ensemble’s music is challenging — Kerr has the students perform pieces that are played by the best wind ensembles, including works that have multiple movements and substantial collections of music for wind bands.

Only a third of the group is made of music majors. Auditions for the ensemble are open every November for anyone who is interested in being a part of a group that promotes Liberty’s musical department and enjoys ministering through music.

“The Liberty University Wind Ensemble is comprised of instrumentalists who are willing to commit themselves to a high level of performance, which takes practice and teamwork,” Kerr said. “A wind ensemble that performs successfully only does so because the members understand and contribute to the composite sound that balances and blends their individual sound for the success of the whole. I am very proud of these students and acknowledge their commitment to perform with artistry and excellence.”

Contact Amanda Thomason at


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