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PSU Wind Ensemble prepares for virtual performance at KMEA convention

The Pittsburg State University Wind Ensemble was selected to perform at the Kansas Music Educators’ Association (KMEA) convention, and much like most concerts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are delivering the performance virtually. 

The ensemble will deliver a pre-recorded concert at the KMEA convention, normally held in Wichita each February, as this year the convention is entirely virtual. Under normal conditions, the convention would feature in-service workshops for music educators from throughout the state of Kansas, rehearsals for participants from Kansas public schools in the all-state choirs, concert bands, orchestra, and jazz band, and scheduled performances showcasing various elements of musical life from college, high school, and community ensembles. This is the second year in a row that a representative from Pittsburg State University has been selected to perform at KMEA. Last year, the Southeast Kansas Symphony performed at the in-service convention. 

According to director of the Wind Ensemble, Andrew Chybowski, the ensemble is performing a selection of repertoire that constitutes an “interesting mix.” 

“This is a little bit different than a normal concert cycle because we’re recording for an upcoming concert and saving some of those pieces for KMEA,” he said. “Some of the pieces on the program we did last semester, some we’re doing this semester… In a convention like this, you’re always going to want to do some standard band stuff… We’re also doing some stuff by (Percy) Grainger who’s like a traditional band composer but the piece we’re doing is almost never performed…” 

The program will consist of wind ensemble literature such as the March from “Symphonic Metamorphosis” by Paul Hindemith, “Spoon River” by Percy Grainger, as well as works by living composers Julie Giroux who just had works featured in the inauguration of President Joe Biden, as well as contemporary band composer Omar Thomas. 

“We’re doing ‘Of Our New Day Begun’ by Omar Thomas and I’m really excited about it,” he said. “It’s a really powerful piece and I think it kind of plays on some of the strengths of this ensemble. A lot of our players have a strong jazz background… It’s hard to teach jazz style from scratch but we have enough people who have a jazz background that even those who are not normally in jazz like flutes or clarinets, they can pick up on that much quicker. It’s also a good stretch for them in that way…” 

Edith Sigler, senior in music, said that it’s still a neat opportunity to represent Pitt State virtually at the convention. 

“Even though it’s online, it’s still neat because we’ll actually get to watch ourselves perform since it will be pre-recorded,” she said.  

Sigler and other members of the ensemble have had to adjust to the challenges that a pandemic poses last semester and this semester. 

“It’s still weird playing so spaced out,” Sigler said. “It’s a lot harder to hear still but I think we’re becoming accustomed to our current setup…” 

Tyler Fries, junior in music education, thinks the recording process is ultimately a positive experience for members of the ensemble. 

“(A positive element) is getting used to being recorded and sort of being on your toes the entire time,” Fries said. “You have to be ready for that perfect take even though we get to try again… If you make a mistake, people are going to be able to view it over and over again. It’s a lot of pressure but it’s really good for us.” 

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