By Amy Wells
When the curtain opens on the Ohio University Wind Ensemble Monday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the School of Music's premiere concert band will showcase its own talents and those of its faculty.
Made up of 50 of the university's best woodwind, brass and percussion performers, the ensemble is one of two university groups to earn the chance to perform at the World Projects Third Annual Band and Orchestra Festival at the famed Washington, D.C., Kennedy Center.
The ensemble's repertoire includes the world premiere of "Color-Code This," composed by the 2007 Ohio University Distinguished Professor Mark Phillips. In addition, John Schlabach, professor of trumpet, will be the featured soloist on "Sonata for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble" and Richard Suk, director of the Marching 110 and Symphonic Bands, will conduct the ensemble in "Molly on the Shore." The concert will conclude with a performance of "Niagara Falls."
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students," said Director of Bands John Climer, who will conduct the ensemble in three of the four pieces. "The Kennedy Center is a world-class concert hall, and the prestige this brings to the university is significant."
The festival accepts, based on a blind audition tape, up to six high school concert bands and only two college ensembles each year. World Projects International Music Productions invited the ensemble to audition.
"The festival is important to us mainly because it's such a great opportunity to gain that experience and to establish a lasting name for Ohio University's music program," said Leslie Green, a sophomore percussionist. "Playing at the Kennedy Center will be something all of us will look fondly back on years from now."
Green she said the ensemble is honored to premiere Phillips' work.
"We are so lucky to have such a talented professor on staff," Green said. "The time and effort he has put into 'Color-Code This' really shows us how much our professors care about our education and making our experience at the Kennedy Center memorable."
Senior trombone player Jennifer Climer noted how valuable it is to rehearse with the composer.
"Every nuance he wants to hear, he has been able to ask us to put in the music," she said. "It is extremely exciting to perform a piece where the players know exactly what the composer is looking for."
Likewise, Schlabach said, there is value in faculty performing alongside students to provide an example of committed musicianship.
"I certainly know that I want to perform as well as possible with them," he said, "and I also believe they enjoy the musical collaboration with an experienced faculty member."
The Ohio University Alumni Association has teamed with the School of Music to raise funds for the ensemble's travel by sponsoring a bus tour with the help of the Washington, D.C., alumni chapter. Alumni and parents of the student performers reserved the tour's 25 slots by early April.
Alumnus Chris Johnson and his wife are looking forward to the trip -- her first to the nation's capital -- to see D.C. in the spring and connect with other alumni and the students.
"It is important to us to support OU and all its groups," Johnson said. "Although we never formally participated in music while there, we both have been actively involved in music and believe strongly in the arts."
Jennifer Climer said the students are grateful for alumni support.
"Their time, efforts and dedication have allowed us to follow through with this prestigious honor," she said. "I believe after this trip is over, we will have a greater appreciation for the alumni association and all it has done for our school."
On the road to Washington, the students will perform at several Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia high schools, an opportunity that has both recruiting and rehearsal benefits.