“When people sing together, their heartbeats synchronize,” Associate Professor of Music and Choir Director Wendy Looker said with a smile. “There is something very special about … trying to make a single artistic statement together.”
Making that single collaborative artistic statement is something unique to the musical groups on campus. Both the professors and students give and take from one another to learn and grow.
Senior music major Megan Swinyard’s experience with the Chamber Singers and College Choir speaks to the strong sense of community these groups foster.
“It’s such an enriching experience,” said Swinyard. “I’ve been in it all four years I’ve been here, and it’s such a community feeling. We’re kinda like a family by the end of the semester. We all take care of each other, and singing together really does something for the human experience.”
Senior Amadeus Heimann, a music minor, has experienced a similar bond with his peers.
“If you are in choir, it’s a pretty good sense of community, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Heimann. “Everyone knows everyone else, and that goes for the entire music department as well, not just the choir and the other music groups. Everyone knows everyone, and we’re all friends.”
Assistant Professor of Music Drew Hays created the Jazz Ensemble in 2010 and notes its uniqueness.
“Everyone has their own part, so every musician is really responsible for making that performance happen,” said Hays.“The other thing that makes it different is that there is improvisation. Part of the music is written out, but part of the music is left up to the musicians. That is one of the things that makes jazz great; it’s different every time.”
He also mentioned that a community feeling and long-lasting friendships are not the only benefits students get out of being in an ensemble, but also confidence and skill.
“We played for some of the Bryan Series last year,” said Hays. “I know that was kind of a shock the first time we did it because my students didn’t realize they were going to be playing for 2,500 people. It was definitely the largest audience they had ever played for up to that point.
“For me, to have them at a level where they can do that — and I know they can do that — is really awesome, as an educator.”
The Strings Ensemble, another campus musical group, often travels and gives concerts with the College Choir. For example, in 2009, both the Strings Ensemble and the Choir went together on an exciting trip to Ireland.
“It’s just so much fun,” said Swinyard. “We go on trips all the time, like last year we went to the D.C. area, and the year before we went to Charleston. We’re trying to go to Austria and Germany over January Term. If anyone feels like they want to come out, they should come check out a rehearsal.”
Because the ensembles are classes, not clubs, students cannot join at this moment, but the music department is always looking for new recruits and would welcome new members next semester.