Orchestra tour to provide valuable exchange


Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra is embarking on a four-day tour through Indiana and Ohio.  The tour begins with a kickoff concert in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory on Feb. 19 and continues with the orchestra traveling to Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus on Feb. 20-23.

After the kickoff concert, the orchestra will be traveling to Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is the home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra will be joined by three of the most prominent high schools: Carmel, Avon and Fischers. Students and faculty will have the opportunity to interact with those high school students and will eventually culminate into a joint concert, said Dr. Soo Han, director of orchestral studies and associate professor of conducting.

The orchestra will then travel to Mason High School in Mason, Ohio. The orchestra will engage and perform for orchestra students and this will be more of a less formal concert, where the orchestra will be performing for students during the day, said Han.

The final stop will be in Columbus, Ohio, at Hilliard Davidson High School.  The orchestra will engage and interact with students and will culminate with an exchange concert, said Han.

The exchange between high schools will include the high school students playing for faculty members, the faculty giving a master class to the orchestra, and give the opportunity for high school students to engage with faculty.

The faculty includes Han, Dr. Clint Needham, composer-in-residence and associate professor of conducting, Dr. Julian Ross, chair, string department and professor of violin, and Dr. David Pope, chair, professional studies department and associate professor of music education.

Needham says that he will talk about advocating for musical participation at the collegiate level and also to try to advocate for a liberal arts experience, like at BW, for an undergraduate student.

“I try to let them know that the world is wide with potentials for music majors,” said Needham. “It’s not just being a music educator or performer, while both of those are wonderful, there are also professions in the recording industry, sound design, composition, songwriting, music theatre, music theory, and music history. A music degree can offer a whole world that you can’t even imagine as a high school student.”

The exchange also features a student portion, where a group of BW students will put together a presentation for the high school students to talk about things like auditioning for music school and transitioning from high school to college.

“I hope that students will not only gain insight about potentially auditioning for music schools, but just making that transition from high school to college in general,” said Han.

There is no better way to showcasing what BW has to offer than going on tour, said Han.

“Our best ambassadors are our students,” said Han.

The Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra will perform the same program on all four concerts.  The program includes “Flourishes” by Clint Needham, “Chinese Folk Dance Suite for Violin and Orchestra” by Chen Yi, and “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi.

“Flourishes” was written for Needham’s hometown orchestra, the Texarkana Symphony for its tenth anniversary.

“For their fifth anniversary season, they had commissioned me to write a work for them, so I wrote a piece called ‘Southern Air,’” said Needham. “They came back and asked if I would write sort of like a concert opener style work to celebrate the successful ten years they had.”

“It’s a piece I wanted to bring back and program again for tour because it features our composition department. I think the orchestra fell in love with it when we played in the fall,” said Han.

“Chinese Folk Dance Suite” was written for violin solo and orchestra and was inspired by various Chinese traditional folk dances.  The movements are titled “Lion Dance,” “Yangko” and “Muqam.”  The solo violin part will be performed by Dr. Julian Ross.

The second movement, “Yangko,” is interesting because the orchestra spends a lot of its time speaking, saying words in rhythms, and its got a progressive kind of vocal energy, said Dr. Julian Ross.

Yangko, originally from northern China, is a major folk-dance form that has been popularized throughout the country. In performance, people sing and dance while playing rhythmic patterns on drums hung around their waists.

Chen Yi imagined a warm scene of Yangko dancing in the distance, the solo violin playing a sweet melodic line, and the orchestra singing the syllables in different layers as a softer background, mimicking the non-stop pulse of the drums.

“It’s a really bold piece and it deserves to be played a lot,” said Ross. “We did it in 2008 here [at BW] when Chen Yi was here as the FOCUS Festival composer, so I got to work on it with her before.”

The concert culminates with Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” an epic finish to the program that features off-stage brass and organ, said Han. It really showcases the orchestra.

“Students will love this piece,” said Han. “It’s one that I listened to in high school and it inspired me to become a musician.”