Lerner C555 was filled with the sounds of horns, oboes, trumpets, and flutes Monday night as the Columbia University Wind Ensemble rehearsed for this weekend’s annual Columbia Festival of Winds.
The event, which takes place on March 2, will bring the New York University Concert Band, the Princeton University Wind Ensemble, the Manhattan Wind Ensemble, and a band from Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 to perform in Roone Arledge Auditorium.
Each of the bands will perform for about 40 minutes before all coming together at the end of the festival’s program to perform Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of “America the Beautiful.”
The proceeds from this year’s event will go to benefit the Musical Mentors Collaborative, a Columbia-based nonprofit that gives “free weekly, private music lessons to low-income elementary school students,” according to its website.
According to wind ensemble co-presidents Charles Sanky, CC ’16, and Kevin Scherer, CC ’14, proceeds from the Festival of Winds in the past were used toward a music outreach program in which members of the wind ensemble—composed of undergraduates, graduate students, and community members—would teach music to students at P.S. 125.
This year, though, Sanky said that he and Scherer decided that their “funds and resources would be better spent on Music Mentors Collaborative.”
“We’re still supporting music education for elementary school students,” Sanky said. ”We felt that we could make a much bigger difference working with this group.”
For Scherer, the change in music outreach programs is part of the nature of the group that he’s been involved with for four years.
“There’s a lot of change,” Scherer said. “Every year we add something new.”
Sanky added that even though the group is working with another organization instead of on its own, members of the Columbia Wind Ensemble “hope to still be teaching right alongside them.”
In addition to raising money for the Musical Mentors Collaborative and collaborating with local groups, the Festival of Winds is bringing both NYU and Princeton groups to Roone– a collaboration that’s been going on for several years.
Michael Breaux, professor of music education and the director of bands at NYU, said that when he first got involved with the Festival of Winds three years ago, he felt that “it was a great idea to get a chance to celebrate wind band music making, which sort of doesn’t exist in the New York area.”
“We’re trying to turn people onto a different kind of music than the standard symphony orchestra.”
One way this is happening is through the varied programs from the groups. Columbia, for example, will be playing pieces by John Philip Sousa and Gustav Holst alongside more contemporary pieces like “Requiem” by David Maslanka, a Montana-based composer. Additionally, saxophone expert Paul Cohen will join the ensemble in a piece that features him as a soloist.
For Breaux’s band, there will be a piece by Leonard Bernstein—which features electric guitar—and a couple of pieces of Irish music, including “Irish Tune from County Derry” and “Shepherd’s Hey.”
“They’re published together and almost never performed together,” Breaux said. “But they’re so ... great that we decided to do that.”
The NYU program will also include a Korean folk song called “Arirang” and a tuba player performing “From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific.”
“We’ve got a crazy concert program,” Breaux said. “The guys are really excited about performing, and having a performance opportunity this early in the season is a little frightening, but that’s why we do it, to get ourselves ready to play.”
According to Breaux, events like Festival of Winds are a good way not only to raise money for music outreach but also to show college bands one another’s work.
“It’s great for all of the university bands to play for each other,” he said. “We don’t get a chance to play for each other and make those connections.”
The Columbia Festival of Winds is March 2 at noon in Roone Arledge Auditorium. Admission is $5 with a CUID and $15 for general admission. There are also VIP tickets available for $40.