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Music department tuning up for Carnegie Hall concert

By Mitzi Y'Barbo
On February 23, 2012

Over 100 Texas A&M University-Commerce students are headed to The Big Apple on Monday morning, for a performance of a lifetime.

52 members of one of A&M –Commerce's Chorales and 51 from the Wind Ensemble will be performing together on stage at the world-famous Carnegie Hall, on Tuesday night, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.

According to Director of Vocal Activities, Dr. Randall Hooper, the A&M-Commerce Music Department was contacted by Distinguished Concert Groups International of New York, asking the university to submit a CD for consideration to be chosen.

Students audition in the fall semester and are assigned to one of two choirs and three bands.  They were told early on of the selection honor, and began practicing the musical pieces and earning funds to participate in the trip.

"This is a unique opportunity for our students to perform on such a legendary stage as Carnegie Hall," said Hooper. "They will be stepping onto the same floor as many great performers have been on, and have that vantage point that not many have had.  To have done that and have the opportunity to tell people ‘I've performed on that stage' is something really special."

The university is spending approximately $105,000 through various funds, with the students each having to pay about $950 to participate. Hooper said the total needed for the trip came to about $200,000.

Music being performed includes "Liberation," composed by David Maslanka, as well as pieces from composers Justin Freer, Andrew Bleckner and Anton Bruckner.  The Wind Ensemble will be presenting the world premier of David Sampson's "Legend," and the combined groups will perform the New York premier of James Syler's "Symphony No. 1: Blue."

Other performances will include Bradley Bodin's "Kaleidoscope" for Marimba and Wind Ensemble, and Jennifer Sanchez, wife of Assistant Professor of Piano Luis Sanchez, as soprano vocalist on Syler's "Symphony No. 1: Blue," for Chorus and Wind Ensemble.

Each of the pieces has been performed during the school year, but this will be the first time all of the pieces will be performed together.

Keyania Campbell, a Public Relations major, is attending A&M-Commerce on a music departmental scholarship.

"I just play music because I get such a kick out of it," Campbell said. "I've been doing it almost half my life. I feel privileged without a doubt, not only to perform in the Hall, but mostly to be performing with people that I've shared so many experiences with, both on and off stage."

The Alumni Association has also become involved in the event.  There will be many Alumni who currently live in the Northeast attending the concert, along with some who are coming from as far away as California and Arizona.

"It's putting the university on a national platform," Hooper said.

Others who will be in the audience include three of the composers whose music will be performed, along with A&M-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones, Provost Dr. Larry Lemanski and the Vice President for Advancement Randy VanDeven, all with their families.

Perhaps the most impressive group in the audience will be the over 100 friends and family members of the students performing.

Hooper said there will be a large reception following the performance with about 250 in attendance, including the special guests and alumni.

"I've been waiting for so long to express the sentiment in these pieces," Campbell said.  "It's almost like mailing a long, heart-felt letter you've been composing for months."

Local public radio station 88.9 KETR will be following the students to New York and Carnegie Hall.  They will have a live broadcast from nearby studios, offering interviews with A&M-Commerce students, faculty, and Dr. Jones.

KETR General Manager Jerrod Knight highlighted the importance of the event, as this will be the first time for the radio station to undertake a live broadcast from New York. 

"For the first time to be such a remarkable event for the students and the music program," Knight said, "is just incredible."

The broadcast, "Lions Take New York," will air locally in real time from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., ending just in time for the students to attend a final dress rehearsal before the actual performance.

It will not be all work and no play. The students will be given some free time on Monday evening, all day Wednesday, and Thursday morning.

Campbell said the main thing she wants to do while in the city is visit the 9-11 Memorial.

"Aside from that," she said "I'll just see where I end up. This is more than a concert at Carnegie Hall to me, and more than a trip to New York. It's scary, but above all, it's unlike anything I've ever done, or ever will do."

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