Just before 6 p.m. every Wednesday, several brass players rush into 85 Ferguson Hall for the weekly rehearsal of the Campus Orchestra. The room echoes with the sounds of instrument cases opening and rustling sheet music.
“People come here because they want to play in an orchestra, but not be a music major,” said Karina Kartak, trumpet player and forest resources major at the University.
The University’s Campus Orchestra was established in 1994 by conducting student Elizabeth Prielozny Barnes to give conducting students experience with an orchestra and to give members of the University community an opportunity to play in an orchestra.
“Many people take lessons when they are young and don’t want to be professional. But they miss having an ensemble to play with,” said Kate Tamarkin, associate professor of orchestral studies and director of the orchestra. “Music is not an elitist activity. It is open to everyone who has a minimum level of playing. The average person shouldn’t be self conscious.”
Members of the orchestra are students from other majors in the University, such as law students, math majors and child psychology majors.
Music majors also join the orchestra when learning different instruments from the one they are majoring in.
“The great thing about this orchestra is that people in it have other lives. They are in the orchestra solely because they want to be there,” said Gabriel Diaz-Alatriste, assistant conductor. “They put into their music whatever their capacity is.”
Joseph Schlefke, now an administrative assistant for the orchestra division of the School of Music, conducted the orchestra for two years while earning his degree in conducting.
“The orchestra has been steadily growing since its beginning. It started out being very small ensemble and we had difficulty finding music to fit the instrumentation. In the past two years, since the orchestra is bigger, the music has been more standard,” Schlefke said.
University students conducted the orchestra until this fall when the responsibility went to staff conductors. The duties are shared by Tamarkin and Diaz-Alatriste.
Tamarkin finds the campus orchestra members’ enthusiasm infectious.
“The orchestra is a lot of fun,” Tamarkin said. “The members bring with them an amateur’s love of music.”
Choosing pieces of music for the Campus Orchestra to play is more problematic than for an orchestra of music majors. Diaz-Alatriste said the music played is demanding, but an attempt is made to offset the difficult with easy music. With an orchestra of this nature, the question is how much one can ask of the performers and how much can they give.
“We try to pick pieces that are not very difficult but still standard repertoire. We don’t play easy arrangements,” Diaz-Alatriste said. “The performances of the music may not be technically perfect but they are musically excellent.”
Rory Mulvaney, trombone player and computer science major, started playing with the orchestra after attending a Campus Orchestra concert in January. He played in the band in high school and always wanted to play in an orchestra. He said the Campus Orchestra is the best place to do it.
“Our playing doesn’t have to be perfect,” Mulvaney said. “But, there are times when everything clicks and we make good music.”