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Wind Orchestra provides summer breeze

By Russell Axon
On May 30, 2012

During the summer semester, students and faculty are given a break from the hectic routines of university work. For Jason Stumbo, however, resting isn’t part of his plans.

Stumbo, the UT director of bands, used his break to conduct the Toledo Wind Orchestra for a series of free concerts over the season. The final concert of the series is scheduled for Sunday, June 17.

The orchestra is comprised of UT students, music teachers and community members who are highly experienced and talented with wind instruments.

The orchestra began as the UT Community Band which performed regularly on campus for four years. According to Stumbo, the ensemble disbanded for a couple years due to several minor issues.

“We abandoned it for maybe two years just because of time [and] we had some personnel issues,” he said. “Nothing big, it just wasn’t working out anymore.”
However, several members wanted to continue the ensemble only with more challenging and artistic pieces.

Stumbo recruited students from the UT Wind Ensemble by suggesting that the orchestra presented a unique opportunity.

“[I told them] this is music you should know and music you may not necessarily play in your four years here,” he said. “And it would be worth your while to participate.”
Word-of-mouth from former ensemble members helped to recruit community performers who were interested in the repertoire and format.

Although this passion project is similar to the work he does during the fall and spring semesters, Stumbo said the stress level is noticeably lower. Not to say he doesn’t enjoy the gameplay and improvement which are part of his college classes.

“With the college group... you set the bar high and you hope that you hit it for everybody involved,” he said.

While the orchestra focuses on playing specifically wind instrument-oriented pieces, Stumbo’s goal is to keep the music varied, contemporary and entertaining.

“A lot of the music we’re playing was composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers,” he said. “There’s a wide range of styles of music ... most of it was written in the last 50 years; very tuneful and classic.”
While the average music listener may be unfamiliar with the repertoire, Stumbo expects every orchestra member to know these songs intimately.

“They’re pieces that anybody who played in band in high school or college would know of,” he said. “They’re core pieces for winds.”
The orchestra also reflects the scheduling and challenges of a professional ensemble, according to Stumbo. Despite the complexity of the selected pieces, the orchestra only rehearses two or three times before a performance.

“The music being played is at a very high level,” Stumbo said. “It’s ‘art’ music; there aren’t a lot of marches or, [what I call], fluff tunes. It’s something unique and different.”
The rehearsals allow the orchestra to work on the subtleties of their performances, like tempo shifts and transitions.

Stumbo’s preparation as the orchestra’s conductor is also very minimal. He selected pieces already familiar to him for the repertoire, allowing him to quickly move through the pieces.

“[They’re] very intense rehearsals, but minimal,” Stumbo said. “You just go in and run it and hit the things you need to hit. It’s actually pretty easy, and to be quite honest, it’s pretty enjoyable, too.”
The orchestra has held two concerts so far, each with a different theme. The first concert featured classic “cornerstone” pieces from major wind composers.

“These are like top five of the [repertoire,]” Stumbo said.

The theme for the second concert was “Liturgical Music for Winds” and featured a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Peter Mennin. His tentative plan for the third show is to feature songs with “dance” themes and elements.

Stumbo’s goal is to keep the concerts brief — none of the shows go over an hour — and entertaining. The repertoire features world famous and prize winning compositions.

“Very rarely do you get all of those works on one program,” he said.

Stumbo hopes the orchestra will perform a fresh concert series every two or three months throughout the year, culminating in a December, holiday-themed concert.

“With [the orchestra]... it’s about playing this great music and enjoying pulling that together and making it happen,” he said.

The Toledo Wind Orchestra’s next concert is scheduled for Sunday, June 17 in Doermann Theatre at 7 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

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