Today was “take grandma to college day.” Even though she isn’t as spry as she was even a few years ago, we try to take my mother along once in a while when we visit our daughter at school. Today was a concert day for the University of Rochester Wind Symphony, and a Sunday afternoon concert seems like the perfect time to take mom along.
The concert was terrific! I am always impressed by this group, which is made up of mostly students (undergrad and graduate) with a few faculty members and alumni thrown in here and there. Our daughter auditioned for this ensemble in her freshman year and has been playing with them ever since. Each spring, the director recognizes the seniors who are leaving the group. He gives their names, hometowns, and majors. This group includes students from as far away as China, with majors as diverse as political science and bio-chemistry. One student named today is completing a PhD in optics. In fact, there is hardly a music major among them, which is not surprising considering most of the music students at the University of Rochester attend its prestigious Eastman School of Music.
Despite the lack of music majors in the group, they have a beautiful tone. The music flows graciously, and even pieces that may be challenging by virtue of notation or tempo sound polished and lovely.
On the way home my mother, who has always enjoyed concert music, noted how remarkable it is that these undergrad and graduate students must carry a heavy academic load and still find time to participate in wind symphony. She is right. U of R is not a school for those who choose to rest on their laurels. It is academically rigorous across all majors. It is a research university, where they take learning very seriously. That’s the main thing our daughter fell in love with about the school. Almost every student there wears their academic “nerd” label as a badge of honor.
So what is it about a music ensemble that keeps these young men and women coming back for more? I suppose the answers are as diverse as the students, themselves. But knowing our daughter, I can only guess that some of the reasons are a love of music, the fact that playing an instrument once in a while can be relaxing for these hard working students, the camaraderie of participating in a group of like-minded people, and the pure enjoyment they get from playing their instrument.
A few words about the director: Bill Tiberio is obviously an engaging conductor who takes an interest in both the students and the music. He is a music teacher at nearby Fairport High School where he conducts several ensembles. His resume includes the Eastman School of Music Community Education Division, summer staff at the Hochstein Music School, faculty of the jazz department at Ithaca College, and past president of the New York State Chapter of the International Association of Jazz Educators. This is a man who has invested his life in music and music education, and yet a portion of his busy week is spent with this group of students who are mainly engaged in biology, brain and cognitive science, chemical engineering, art history, religion, and other non-music pursuits.
Both of our daughters studied music for years. The eldest started piano lessons at age eight, took up percussion in middle school, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Music from West Virginia University. The younger one started playing percussion in fifth grade, switched to clarinet in middle school, and now in her junior year at U of R took up bass clarinet. She is not a music major, but she and about 90 others like her continue to make music together, beautifully, in this thoroughly enjoyable ensemble.
Music can be a life-long pursuit even for those who choose not to make it a career. My mother began piano lessons at the age of 80. She is thrilled to see her grandchildren pursue all of their interests, including music, into their adulthood. Taking her on a little road trip on a beautiful spring day to hear her granddaughter was the least we could do for her.