Five nights this summer students, community members, faculty and guests will come together both as audience members and participants to experience the Under the Elms Concert Series. This free open-air concert series on College Green has been an Athens tradition since the late 1940’s and attracts audiences of nearly 500.
After World War II Ohio University saw an influx of soldiers on campus studying music, so the University organized an event for the students to more deeply understand what the job of a band director entails. The event ran continuously until the 1970 Kent State shooting, when the Athens campus shut down, and the Under the Elms Series was suspended and didn’t resume until seven years later.
The five summer concert nights consist of an hour of various bands, soloists, ensembles and directors performing everything from classical and popular repertoire, to marches and Broadway hits. ‘Variety is the name of the game’ is the slogan emphasized by Andrew Trachsel, Ohio University Director of Bands and current director of the series. After five years of organizing the series, Trachsel aims to imagine an overriding theme for every concert.
“I hope that the concert can serve as a gateway leading into an interest for other events in Athens, and that the audience continues to branch out and discover other arts events,” said Trachsel.
On a typical concert night the audience would most likely be as diversified as you could imagine. Babies cling to their mothers, attendees over the age of 90 stake out a spot in the front and college students frolic in the back with their dogs. The musicians provide a wide variety as well, ranging from local high school students to retirees coming back to play.
Take for example Peter Couladis, an Under the Elms musician. Couladis began playing in the summer band around 1964, but was unable to play during his U.S. Army break and the cease of the series, but has played continuously since 1981. A retired auditor, he plays the trumpet and always anticipates catching up with old friends who come back as guest conductors.
John McCutcheon is a semi-newbie to the summer series, who started playing in 2009. McCutcheon is an Associate Professor Emeritus at Ohio University and was enthused to pick up his tuba for the first time in 47 years. He enjoys being part of the typical four generations of musicians playing.
As an Athens native, Christina Wince has attended the series since her younger years, first participating as a high schooler. Graduating with a Music Performance and Music Education degree, Wince has thoroughly appreciated her time playing flute and piccolo in the series.
“This ensemble is a testament to the lifelong love of playing music; it is so inspiring to see community members who have been playing in the ensemble for 20 or more years,” said Wince. “There are so many gifted musicians in this ensemble every year, and it is a joy to share the gift of live music performance with the Athens community. These concerts are deeply treasured by the musicians and the audience alike.”
Every year Tachsel has looked to incorporate a different aspect to the program, and this year for the first time during the 4th of July celebration the series will feature a performance of 1812 Overture and with approval from the National Guard will be shooting off cannons. Tachsel can’t stress enough his appreciation for the College of Fine Arts sponsoring this program and making it free for all attendees.
“I look at it as a free service to the community to present art that is accessible,” said Tachsel. “That’s what it’s all about; reaching out to the community and providing them with a unique opportunity they may not find elsewhere.”
Under the Elms Concert Series
All concerts will begin at 7 p.m. on the College Green (rain location is Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium).
June 5 – Guest Conductor Shelly Jagow Wright State University Associate Director of Bands
June 12 – Featuring guest ensemble Ohio Capital Winds
June 19 – In conjunction with the first annual Ohio Summer Music Camp
June 26 – In conjunction with the Moving with Meaning conducting workshop
July 3 – Special 4th of July celebration