Masterworks concert brings crowd to feet

Draven Jackson

Staff Writer

The masterworks concert showcased the talents of students, graduate assistants and faculty alike in the Claudia Crosby Theater on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

The recital, featuring the symphony band, kicked off the 2016-2017 season. It consisted of five pieces and an encore, starting with “Fanfare of Full Fathom Five” composed by John Mackey, and ending with the encore, “The Klaxon” by Henry Fillmore.

Ashlee Robinson, a graduate music education major from Auburn, is a graduate teaching assistant with the band.

She helps to conduct and teach the campus concert band with fellow graduate assistant Rad Bolt, a music education major from Panama City, Florida.

Robinson was the guest conductor for the concert. Her piece, “Australian Upcountry Tune” composed by Percy Grainger, was the third piece of the concert and sounded slow and melodic.

“My piece was chosen for me in order to help me ‘flex’ my lyrical conducting muscle,” Robinson said. “That’s something I’m not very good at.”

Symphony band constantly challenges its players to go above and beyond, which is why it’s considered the top and most elite ensemble on campus, according to ensemble members.

In the audition-based process, symphony band hopefuls get the audition music two to three months in advance. Besides their two prepared pieces, auditioning members also perform a sight-reading piece they’ve never seen before.

Only a few applicants from each instrument are chosen by Band Director Mark Walker and a board of band faculty.

Brody Cecil, a freshman music education major from Pensacola, Florida, who is sixth chair French horn, said being chosen for the ensemble is a confidence boost.

“It definitely raises my self-esteem,” Cecil said. “Even though I’m last chair, I still made it and beat out several other students.

“It’s nice to know I perform that well, and it’s a great feeling to have people cheer you on for being good at what you’re doing.”

A lot goes into preparing for each concert. Symphony band meets three times a week for one hour in order to put the whole band together, so independent practice is required of each musician.

Ethan Stonecipher, a freshman physics major from Alabaster, is fifth chair in the symphony band’s percussion section. He views practice as an enjoyable experience.

“I love practicing,” Stonecipher said. “My favorite way to practice is to learn my notes and get my playing up to speed; then I listen to a recording of some symphony or orchestra playing the music, and I play with them.”

The concert band began with “Fanfare for Full Fathom Five” by John Mackey, a brass and percussion piece that takes its title from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The piece uses traditional fanfare rhythms and motifs, but had a darker and more sinister tone.

The next song, which brought the rest of the ensemble onstage to join the brass and percussion, was “Profanation” composed by Leonard Bernstein, the second movement in his Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah. The piece, based on the story of the prophet Jeremiah, was upbeat and had a quick tempo.

Adam Blackstock, associate professor of percussion, was the featured soloist for the concert’s fourth piece: “Concerto for Percussion” by Joseph Schwanter.

Blackstock feels the concert, and his solo, went well.

“I was very happy with the concert, as well as the piece I played,” Blackstock said. “I feel like the program was a really good start to the 2016-2017 calendar, and we received a lot of good feedback from the audience.”

Blackstock’s piece, a 26-minute percussion concerto that contained three separate parts, was dark and mysterious, with all three parts connecting and sharing a similar sound.

During his performance, Blackstock played 24 instruments, ranging from various keyboards and drums to the Almglocken, which are “essentially Swedish cowbells made of brass” that he suspended on a rack.

Blackstock received a standing ovation at the end of his piece.

The final song of the program, “Blue Shades” by Frank Ticheli, had a jazz sound that mixed with the tone of slow blues. Its upbeat swing starkly contrasted with the previous mysterious-sounding percussion concerto.

Sammy Alday, a senior music education major from Donalsonville, Georgia, is the fourth French horn in the ensemble. He held Thursday’s concert in high regard.

“It was probably one of the best concerts I’ve ever been a part of,” Alday said.

Frankie Garcia, a senior music education major from Palm Coast, Florida, is third flute in Symphony Band.

“Symphony Band is one of the better experiences I’ve had at the university,” Garcia said. “I just appreciate being able to work with musicians that are of a caliber this high.”

Both the finale of the concert and the end of the unannounced encore received standing ovations from the audience.

For more upcoming musical performances, go to, and click on the link “School of Music Calendar Events.”

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