TU Symphony Band draws large crowd for West Side Story performance

Georgia Blanchard 

Chief Copy Editor 

The Troy University Symphony Band saw a bigger crowd than usual for its “West Side Story” concert in Claudia Crosby Theater on Thursday, Nov. 8. The concert featured a selection of pieces from several different composers with a focus on Leonard Bernstein, one of America’s most famous 20th century composers. 

The concert featured a compilation of Bernstein’s most famous songs from the musical. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth, so this concert helped commemorate his significant contributions to music.

Mark Walker, the director of bands and a professor of music, conducted most of the concert, with guest conductors Larry Blocher and Jordan Guy stepping in to conduct one piece each. 

Blocher, the dean of the college of communication and fine arts, conducted an arrangement of the traditional hymn “Be Thou My Vision,” while Guy, a graduate assistant and first-chair euphonium, debuted his conducting career with Sousa’s march “Black Horse Troop.” 

According to Pedro Ferreira, a sophomore music industry major from Lisbon, Portugal, there was a better turnout than usual despite the concert falling in the middle of the semester.

“It was pretty packed compared to what we usually have,” Ferreira said. “Usually we have about three-quarters of what we had today.”

Patrick Ferguson, a senior music education major from Crestview, Florida, said being in symphony band has been a challenge throughout the four years he has been at Troy. 

“I got to school in the fall 2014 and auditioned as a freshman, and I’ve been in it ever since,” Ferguson said. “You have to re-audition every fall and spring semester, so to be able to consistently stay in symphony band from beginning to end is a pretty big thing — not a lot of people do that.”

Ferguson credits his success in symphony band to Walker’s encouragement and pushing the symphony band members to work harder to accomplish bigger things than they thought possible.

“He tries to challenge us by giving us a lot of music in a very short amount of time,” Ferguson said. “Dr. Walker is of the mindset that if you’re given a task, you will do it. 

“If you’re given it and if you’re prepared enough and given the right instruction and guidance, you can do anything within a set amount of time.”

Michael Stopak, a senior hospitality, sport and tourism major from Vestavia Hills, said he enjoyed the concert and looks forward to attending more events like this in the future. 

“I’ve been to other concerts like this, but this was the first Troy Symphony Band performance I’ve attended,” Stopak said. “I’ve always been a fan of music and fine arts — I was in band for a while — so I knew I would have a good time.”

In his closing remarks, Walker said every student in symphony band works hard to make these events happen. Many of the students are in multiple music-related clubs and activities in addition to their classes. Walker acknowledged their hard work and dedication. 

“Every one of these students is in so many different things on campus,” Walker said. “We would not have (these concerts) if it were not for the students.”

According to Ferreira, the members of symphony band had only about three to four weeks to learn and master all the pieces in this concert. 

Despite the difficulty of being involved in multiple music activities on campus and the short rehearsal time, Ferguson said the band has helped him continue to grow as a musician and play at the high level required of ensembles such as symphony band.

“Something people don’t understand about music is that you can’t just get an 80 percent in music and have it be OK,” Ferguson said. “If you miss 20 percent of the notes in a concert, it’s going to sound bad, so you have to be at a very high level. 

“The biggest lesson I got from that was that if you’re given a task and have proper guidance and proper preparation, you can do just about anything.”

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