Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Chamber Orchestra provides student-run concerts

Listening to music on an iPod can never replace the feeling of going to a live concert with real instruments and talented musicians.

At Whitman, it’s not difficult to find live music anytime around campus, from Coffeehouse on Fridays to various concerts on weekends.

Among the variety of music ensembles at Whitman is the Divertimento Chamber Orchestra, created by senior Lee Mills.

“I created this orchestra in fall semester last year when I realized I wanted to be a conductor. I started by asking students I knew personally and then asked teachers for recommendations for spots which I had not filled,” said Mills. “We performed three times last year and will also have a total of three concerts this year.”

Mills pursued his passion for conducting after taking the introductory conducting class in his sophomore year. After studying composing at a workshop in Portland, Ore., he came back and started the Divertimento Chamber Orchestra.

“When I came back my junior year, I started the Divertimento Chamber Orchestra here, and I was Dr. Bode’s assistant conductor for the opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’  as well. This past summer I guest-conducted Synfonia Bucharest, which is an orchestra in Bucharest, Romania. I also was one of seven internationally selected students to attend the Cabrillo Conducting Workshop in Santa Cruz, California,” said Mills.

At the concert on Thursday, Oct. 9, the Chamber Orchestra played two pieces, chosen by Mills based on various criteria.

“I use my knowledge of the orchestral repertoire, along with various resources: textbooks, anthologies, essays about pieces: to pick what repertoire we will play in the concerts. Part of my decision involves knowing the orchestra,” said Mills. “This orchestra plays some genres better than others, and it is important to expose the players: and the audience: to genres which aren’t played as often.”

Some audience members may not know the difference between the various music periods which makes the Chamber Orchestra concerts an enjoyable way for people to gain more exposure to music styles.

“For example, the stylistic traits of music from the Late Romantic period: such as the “Adagietto” from [Gustav] Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5”  we played: are far different from the stylistic traits of a classical piece: such as Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40″: which we played last year,” said Mills.
As the Chamber Orchestra is managed entirely by students, it is only natural that they are all passionate about music, even if they don’t plan to major in music. Most started playing an instrument at a very young age.

“I decided to join because I love chamber music, and I think playing in a small group really allows musicians to listen to those around them as opposed to only focusing on their individual parts. Also, I was excited about being able to play such advanced repertoire even in such a small music department,” said first-year Lindsay Olson.

“Lee Mills is an incredible conductor who manages the group very efficiently. The student musicians are fabulous players. We even have student-composed pieces on a few of our programs,” said sophomore violist Alixandra Bowman.

In terms of a time commitment, rehearsals for Chamber Orchestra are usually about four hours a week over Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings.

“In order to be competitive in music, you must be willing to put in the time practicing. Because we perform fairly difficult pieces on a relatively small amount of rehearsal time, the group is kept fairly small and hand-picked. The students who are in the orchestra now are students which I have musical experience with or students who have been recommended to me by faculty members,” said Mills.

The dynamics of an orchestra is very different from playing solo, and thus students often take lessons and participate in other music groups on campus in addition to Chamber Orchestra.

“Playing solo pieces is great, but I think the thing I love most about playing in an orchestra is sharing my passion for music with others who are equally as passionate about it. I love the music that we play, the challenge it provides me as a musician and the students that are involved in the group,” said Bowman.

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