F&M instrumental music celebrates anniversaries

BY ALANNA KOEHLER ’15
Campus Life Editor

This weekend instrumental music at F&M celebrated two major milestones: the 75th anniversary of the Band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the 25th anniversary of the Orchestra. In addition to a joint Common Hour performance Thursday April 5, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed its concert “Alleluia” Friday, and the Orchestra performed “The Common Man and Woman” Saturday, with conducting by Brian Norcross, instrumental conductor.

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The Wind Ensemble and Orchestra presented several world premieres this weekend. The Wind Ensemble performed “Moving Violations” by Jeffrey Nytch ’87 and “Katydid March” by John Carbon, Richard S. and Anne Barshinger professor of music. Nytch gave a guest lecture entitled “The Arts Funding Dilemma: Reframing the Issue Through Entrepreneurship,” Thursday. The Orchestra performed The Ark of Noah, which Mu Upsilon Sigma commissioned from composer Rossano Galante specifically for the 25th Anniversary of the Orchestra. This piece was first performed at Common Hour. The Wind Ensemble performed one of Galante’s pieces during the Alumni Concert in order to help connect alumni to the present band, according to Norcross.

This weekend was about pulling together generations. Parts of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Orchestra performed during an Alumni Band and Orchestra Concert Saturday afternoon, with alumni from several generations, including some who performed under John H. Peifer ’36, F&M’s first band director.

“Twenty-five and 75 years mark huge points, and it’s pretty remarkable for the band program because it started with Peifer, who was not a music major—he was an economics major—and, just with sheer determination, he got the band program started. He then, with sheer de- termination, did that for 44 years. This kind of celebration, of saying, ‘Look what we’ve done with sometimes limited resources that has that much longevity and that much impact on the college community and the community as a whole,’ well that’s amazing,” Norcross said.

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“John was a unique gentleman,” said Joseph Carr ’69, a trumpet player and percussionist who performed in both portions of the Alumni Concert. “He overcame a big handicap to be able to work with the groups in music, and it was his love of the music and the love of the College that just kept him going forward. I think he inspired a lot of the people in the band to continue to play and continue to be better people for it.”

However, the festivities were not just focused on Peifer and his generations of students. Norcross had reason to celebrate, as well.

“The orchestra celebration is really personal for me,” Norcross said. “I’m the father of this orchestra. I started it 25 years ago, with very humble beginnings, scratching my head, wondering, ‘Is this ever actually going to work?’ It’s been a real joy to do that for a quarter of a century, and students have threatened they want me to stay on for the next quarter.”

The alumni partook in several activities, including enjoying the anniversary concerts, recitals, and meals in the Catering Suite of Benjamin Franklin Dining Hall. The recent and not-so-recent graduates were also given campus tours by students in the Music Department in order to see all the changes F&M has made, some as recent as the addition of the New College House.

A lot of thought went into developing the program for the Alumni Concert. Norcross explained his thought processes involving each piece, the most notable of which were “The Kilties March” by Samuel E. Morris, which was Peifer’s favorite march, the Franklin & Marshall Alma Matter, and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, “Unfinished.”

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“Starting with Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ for me was important; we’re not finished, not even close to done,” Norcross said. “There’s a reputation [at F&M]. This is a place where everyone can play. They can enjoy what they’re doing, they can grow, and it will be a positive experience. I’m very optimistic that the trajectory will keep on heading upward. We’ve now established a tradition here of excellence.”

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Questions? Email Alanna at

alanna.koehler@fandm.edu.

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