On Monday March 1, the Samford Orchestra performed its first concert this semester as a part of the Patty McDonald Orchestra Series. The performance featured Concerto Aria winner Rebekah Willard and was conducted by professor Brian Viliunas.
Due to COVID-19, the audience size for the spring concert was limited. Conductor Viliunas commented on the attendance.
“I think a lot of Samford students really enjoy a good orchestra concert on a regular basis,” Viliunas said. “The number of people who can attend has been limited, but I think on Monday there were 150 people in the concert.”
Orchestra concerts this semester have been held in the Wright Center, as opposed to Brock Recital Hall, to allow for a larger audience. In addition, each performance has been made available to remote audiences.
“All of our concerts have been live streamed,” Viliunas said. “Some of them have been live streamed on an internal system just for Samford, and some of them have been live streamed all over the world.”
The Samford Orchestra performs two major concerts per semester and plans one additional special event per year. This year, the orchestra will perform at the President Westmoreland Celebration. The orchestra prepares for each concert a year in advance and spends six to seven weeks rehearsing for each.
Rehearsals have also been altered by COVID-19, due to social distancing disrupting the traditional seating layout.
“A lot of times, when you play a string instrument, you also have a stand partner. Now, page turning is a little bit of an issue because you can’t have a stand partner,” Vililunas said. “And that actually impacts the way an orchestra sounds because you don’t have someone sitting right next to you.”
Conductor Viliunas notes that his job has also become more difficult due to COVID-19.
“We wear masks all the time, and as a conductor, that’s a challenge because usually you try to be expressive with your gestures, but the most expressive part of your body obviously is your face. It’s difficult to try to be emotive in any way when you’re wearing a mask,” Viliunas said.
Despite the difficulties this semester, Viliunas cites his students as his primary motivator to keep going.
“When I first got this job, I didn’t know how great of a place Samford was,” Viliunas said. “I am continually reminded, almost on a daily basis, by the students that are at Samford of how kind they are, how hard working they are, and how willing they are to push themselves to new levels. It’s a very rewarding place to be. Now it’s been 10 years and I don’t see myself leaving.”
The Samford Orchestra consists of around 40 Samford students that audition at the beginning of the year. All Samford students are encouraged to audition regardless of their major. For more information regarding the Samford Orchestra, email Conductor Brian Viliunas firstname.lastname@example.org.