A low hum of conversation envelops the room as the conductor steps up to the podium. He tells the group to take out sheet music for Gustav Holst’s “Second Suite in F.” The sound of paper crinkling fills the space before a line of eight trumpets rise, followed by four trombones, seven clarinets and many other instruments ascending to meet them.
The Ithaca College Campus Band is a performance band that doubles as a one–credit class and is open to all students, faculty and staff. This semester is the first time the band has decided to allow faculty and staff to join.
Last semester, the group welcomed Music Librarian Kristina Shanton, who has a flute performance master’s degree from the college. She joined the band because she wanted to learn how to play the clarinet and because she knew one of the conductors, graduate student Aaron Burgess, through working with him in the Ithaca College Library. She was the first faculty member to join, and Burgess proposed opening up the band to other faculty and staff on campus.
The band currently has three faculty and staff members and approximately 50 student members. It is led by graduate students Burgess and Greg Harris. Both Burgess and Harris were public school music teachers who are now working toward their master’s degrees.
The band provides musicians the chance to perform in a variety of musical styles. This year’s repertoire runs the gamut from a piece from 19th-century composer Gustav Holst to selections from “Chicago” and even a tango piece. The diverse selection allows more experienced players to remain interested with a few complex songs, while at the same time not overwhelming less–experienced members of the band.
Two graduate students, one of whom graduates at the end of the year, conduct the band each year. Harris said having one graduate student stay each year is key to maintaining the cohesion and camaraderie that was built over time. Art Carichner, lecturer in the Department of Music Education, used to conduct the band. The band switched to being conducted by graduate students to give students more opportunities and to lighten the load on Carichner.
Student musicians outside of the School of Music and within it are all part of the band. The students in the school who are in the band use it to practice their secondary instruments.
“It occurred to me that the band was originally the All-Campus Band, and ‘all-campus’ should mean all-campus.” Burgess said. “Anybody that has an instrument that is a Bomber has a place in the ensemble.”
The Campus Band will also be sharing performances with the Concert Band for the first time. The Concert Band consists mostly of music majors and holds six concerts a semester, both on and off campus. Senior trumpet player Justin Albinder said this was a positive change for the campus band.
“For us, it’s incredible because we’re getting the opportunity to play with the upper–level groups,” Albinder said. “We’re getting more exposure, and it’s a real concert.”
Albinder has been a member of the band since he was a freshman and said he cherishes the opportunity to work with young conductors.
“The grad students are full of youth and energy and are really willing to go and make things happen,” Albinder said. “There’s so much passion, and it’s so evident in the rehearsal room. They step up there, and there’s already a huge smile on their face ready to go.”
Albinder said he was excited by the opportunity for the band to grow and for students to get to know faculty and staff.
“The bigger the band grows, the better,” Albinder said. “The better we sound, the more range we have.”
Harris said one of the main goals of the band is to improve over the semester.
“There’s a lot of teaching that goes on,” Harris said. “We try to make sure that everyone feels that they’re improving.”
Harris said the introduction of faculty can help this goal because many of them are talented musicians who can help and play leadership roles if they like. The band’s other goal is to grow a sense of community to make rehearsals more enjoyable.
“The ensemble, I feel, has started to build more camaraderie amongst each other, so the rehearsal isn’t as strict as it used to be,” Harris said. “It’s looser and a more fun atmosphere.”
Albinder said the sense of community is something that keeps him coming back to the band year after year.
“While I love being in the theater department and the community there, this is a completely different one,” Albinder said. “I’m a different person. I have different friends and different people I associate with.”
At the start of block four, the band can accept more members since they will be learning new songs for their second performance. Although students are welcome to join at the beginning of the new block, they will not be able to receive credit for the class, Burgess said.
The Campus Band will perform with the Concert Band at 8:15 p.m. March 1 and at 8:15 p.m. May 2 in Ford Hall in the James J. Whalen Center for Music.