By Breanne Smith
March is Music in Our Schools Month, and the School of Music is kicking off three weeks packed with group performances this Friday.
Seven of the school's nine ensembles will offer performances before March 15. The performing ensembles include Jazz Ensembles, Jazz Percussion Ensemble, Singing Men of Ohio, Symphonic Band, University Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, University Singers, Choral Union, Women's Chorale and University Symphony Orchestra.
"It is our mission not only to give students and faculty opportunities to perform, but to provide great music to the community," said Michael Parkinson, director of the School of Music. "We don't want to just keep current audiences coming, but we want to broaden the audience and let the public know that music is available as a life-enriching experience."
Jazz Ensemble I and II, both 20-piece groups, will kick off the series of concerts with a free performance at 8 p.m. this Friday in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium featuring two-time Grammy winner Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.
"This guest artist will be amazing." Matt James, director of jazz ensembles, said. "He is a technical virtuoso on saxophone and has traveled the world as a performer and educator."
Jazz Ensemble I member Mike Evans also is looking forward to Coffin's visit.
"It's always exciting to perform with a professional musician," Evans said. "You tend to play better. We're playing four pieces written by Jeff, and they're my favorites out of all the repertoire we've prepared. They all have a good groove."
The Singing Men of Ohio will hold its annual Alumni Concert at 8 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Auditorium, and the Symphonic Band and University Concert Band will follow with a performance there at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The Wind Ensemble and University Singers will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7, also in Mem. Aud.
John Climer, director of bands, said the theme for the performance is 20th Century Masterworks for Chorus and Winds. The concert will feature, among others, Igor Stravinsky's "Mass," Benjamin Britten's "Hymn to Cecilia" and Paul Hindemith's "Symphony in B-flat."
The Choral Union, which is a mix of students, faculty and community members, and Women's Chorale will perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at the First United Methodist Church on South College Street.
"This is a great venue," Parkinson said. "The acoustics are just great for choral music."
The University Symphony Orchestra will wind up the three weeks of ensembles with a performance at 8 p.m. Friday, March 14, at Mem Aud. The concert will feature two of the three winners of the annual Ohio University School of Music Student Soloist Competition.
Mircea Lazar will be soloist for the first movement of Johannes Brahams' "Violin Concerto in D Major," and Desiree Miller will be soloist for Dmitri Shostakovich's "Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major." Gioacchino Rossini's "Overture to William Tell" also will be performed.
"The performances cover a wide gamut of styles and also eras: baroque, classical, folk, jazz, pop, 20th-century," Parkinson said. "Almost any event someone attends, they'll either hear something they enjoy or hear something they've forgotten about. So many can be intimidated coming to a performance. We want the experience of coming to the concert to be as enjoyable as the music itself."
All of the performances, with the exception of the Singing Men of Ohio, are free and open to the public, thanks to funding from Arts for Ohio.