On Tuesday, Feb. 28, students playing woodwind and percussion instruments occupied the stage of Brock Recital Hall for the School of the Arts’ first wind ensemble concert of the semester. The trills of flutes and the rhythm of drums echoed throughout the space as the audience basked in the notes of the five pieces performed by the ensemble.
Jon Bubbett, interim conductor of the wind ensemble, spent many hours carefully choosing the pieces performed for the concert.
“We work very hard to represent diversity in our programming and also different genres and different periods of time,” Bubbett said. “We go all the way from the 1800s to the 2000s in our programming. The composer list too is also very diverse.”
Sophomore percussionist Brennen Ramsey said he enjoyed playing a diverse set for the concert.
“Being a part of Samford’s wind ensemble allows me to be exposed to diverse music and repertoire,” Ramsey said. “The ensemble gives me great experience that I can apply should I teach or help instruct a similar ensemble in the future.”
The concert started off with a boom of percussion as the sounds of “Emperata Overture” reverberated throughout Brock. Composed by Claude T. Smith in 1964, this piece is very popular for wind bands at any level of expertise. The clarinet stood out in this performance, as Sam McWhirter, senior clarinetist, expertly played several solos.
The second piece, “Riptide,” began with junior percussionist Will Mason, shifting a large rain stick back and forth. Throughout Katahj Copley’s piece, intermittent rain sounds and the wailing of a conch shell surrounded the audience as the ensemble painted a picture of the deep ocean.
“The piece is about the ocean and features various percussion instruments to invoke the sound of the sea,” Ramsey said. “It is definitely an interesting piece of musical literature for the group.”
The ensemble then transitioned into their third piece of the night, “Hymn for the Innocent” by Julie Giroux. Slower than the first two pieces, this one strove to evoke emotion amongst the audience with its lilting melody. According to Bubbett, the piece was written as a tribute to all lives that have been lost too soon to war, accidents or disasters. The piece was comprised of several bassoon solos, and senior bassoonist Sam Gravlee said it was his favorite piece they performed.
“This piece is just so flowy and beautiful,” Gravlee said. “The bassoon part is really well written and there are multiple bassoon solos. It is challenging in a different way than the other pieces, which makes it a lot of fun to play.”
The ensemble then performed “First Suite in E-flat, Op. 28,” composed by Gustav Holst in 1901, which Bubbett claimed is another classic in wind band literature and one advanced enough to challenge a college ensemble. The concert closed with “Our Flirtations March” by John Philip Sousa, the oldest piece played at the concert.
“It’s just a good, toe-tapping way to end the concert,” Bubbett said of the concluding piece.
The upbeat Sousa march that concluded the concert served as a musical portrayal of the enjoyable experiences the students have had while playing together this semester.
“Every rehearsal day for wind ensemble, I look forward to seeing my fellow musicians and friends,” sophomore percussionist Matthew Murphree said. “I am always provided with a fun and engaging learning experience thanks to Professor Bubbett, who we are so lucky to have as our conductor and mentor.”
Gravlee echoed Murphree’s thoughts, saying that he is thankful to have Bubbett direct the ensemble this semester.
“I also love watching Professor Bubbett teach,” Gravlee said. “He is a super experienced band director and has been really helpful for me as a future educator.”
Bubbett took over the role in January, after the turnover of leadership from previous conductor, Ryan Lovell, who left last semester. He acknowledged that this transition has been a challenge, or an unexpected “curveball,” for the students.
“Samford is a very special place, and I’ve received a lot of help, and the students have been absolutely amazing,” Bubbett said. “It’s been very challenging for the students as well. They’ve had to accept changes that were beyond their control, and they’ve had to adapt to that as well, and that’s never easy.”
Bubbett taught high school band for 38 years, and he said he is grateful for the opportunity to now work with college students.
“They’re really a very special bunch of students, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with them,” Bubbett said.
Graduate assistant Lexie Dishroon also spoke about the students in the ensemble and the community she has witnessed there.
“The wind ensemble is a very special group, made up of some amazing, hard-working individuals,” Dishroon said. “Each member dedicates a significant amount of time and energy to produce beauty in music in a unified ensemble. The environment that the students have created is something special that you won’t find anywhere else on campus.”
After a successful concert and time off over spring break, the wind ensemble will begin preparing for their final performance of the school year, which will take place on Friday, April 14.