Saturday, Jun 23, 2018

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Pen Trio

The PEN Trio performed at the opening concert of Oktoboefest.

Photographer: Katie Hendershot

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OCTUBAFEST, Oktoboefest feature guest artists

Two instruments are getting extra attention during the month of October at Ohio University's School of Music. The tuba and oboe are not often the recipients of solos and don't receive the recognition that many other instruments do. Two music fests, however, are geared toward bringing in guest artists and showcasing the efforts of tuba and oboe students with this month's OCTUBAFEST and Oktoboefest.

OHIO faculty Dr. Michele Fiala, associate professor of oboe, and Dr. Jason Smith, professor of tuba/euphonium, coordinated the two festivals, which operate independently of each other.

"It's more than just one concert," Smith said. "Pretty much the idea is the whole month of October, we put on concerts."

Five Oktoboefest concerts took place over the first few weeks of October, featuring many artists, including The PEN Trio. Other performances included an oboe master class with a member of the Columbus Symphony, an Alexander technique masterclass, a solo performance by OU faculty member Michele Fiala with the OU Symphony Orchestra and a visiting artist oboe recital by a member of the South Bend Symphony. 

While Oktoboefest concerts have wrapped up, many performances still remain for the OCTUBAFEST celebration. The OCTUBAFEST includes: 

  • Oct. 16 — Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble (Steven Darling, Director) and Trombone Choir (Sarah Paradis, Director), Glidden Recital Hall, 8 p.m.

  • Oct. 23 — Student Recital: Jason Snoddy, Tuba & Zach Poller, Euphonium, Glidden Recital Hall, 8 p.m.

  • Oct. 27 — Visiting Guest Artist: Timothy J. Northcut, Tuba (Professor of Tuba/Euphonium, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) and Timothy Andersen (Professor of Trombone, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music), Glidden Recital Hall, 1 p.m.

  • Nov. 6 — Faculty Chamber Recital: OhioBrass, Glidden Recital Hall, 8 p.m.


The PEN Trio gave the opening performance for the Oktoboefest, providing a glimpse of what's ahead for the remaining fests.

Fitting with the purpose of the fests, the three musicians provided a diverse range of fluid sounds. The spectacular tunes cut through the silent room, aweing audience members. The songs varied , changing paces and tones often throughout the concert. The musicians, Nora Lewis (oboe), Phillip Paglialonga (clarinet) and Eric Varner (bassoon), showed passion for their music through their movement in their seats.

Each piece was of a different era and written by a different composer. The final piece of the evening was unique to the trio. Composer and conductor Jenni Brandon wrote "Things Found on the Beach" specifically for the Trio. Members of the Trio expressed their excitement at being able to share the six-movement piece at Ohio University, as part of their Ohio tour.

"We're working on a new program for the fall so this is our second time playing the program so it's a lot of fun, particularly we're happy to perform Jenni Brandon's new trio that she wrote for us called 'Found Objects on the Beach'," Lewis said.

The Trio expressed how much they enjoyed being at Ohio University.

"It's great to be here in Athens and get to meet everybody and see the campus," Paglialonga said. "The campus is beautiful and we loved the town and the people we met."

Educational opportunities

In addition to hearing from the guest artists, the two fests offered students the chance to learn from the guests, who often hold master classes.

Taylor Rickey, a sophomore music major, attended the first Oktoboefest after participating in Paglialonga's master class. "I'm a clarinet player and I was in his master class today, so I wanted to hear the whole concert," she said.

The PEN Trio took the time to meet with enthusiastic students, chatting about their instruments. It's a common practice after School of Music concerts and gives students the chance to pick an artist's brain.

"That's maybe the biggest benefit of doing these things is that the students at OHIO get to be exposed to different performers and new styles of teaching," Fiala said.

The educational appeal extends beyond students in the School of Music. Community members and students with different majors are also encouraged to attend.

"Part of the reason to come to college is to be exposed to things that you have never seen before in your life so this could be a just totally new experience. People who are in other majors are the people who become arts supporters and who can go to concerts throughout their lives and help the arts thrive. It's really important to us ," Fiala said.

Smith said he tries to reach out to high school students to give them the chance to see what their instruments can do. He often has students from Logan, Albany and even Columbus-area schools attend OCTUBAFEST.


Behind the name

OCTUBAFEST is a long-standing tradition that got its start at Indiana University under the instruction of Dr. Harvey Phillips. Originally, Phillips held duets between his tuba students at his home. They gained popularity and OCTUBAFEST was born in 1974.

OCTUBAFEST made its debut at Ohio University in 1999 under the direction of Smith, who was the University's first full-time tuba/euphonium professor. Smith said he was following the lead of other universities across the country that had adopted the tradition of the fest.

The fest was intended to celebrate the tuba, which Smith said wasn't often recognized in Phillips's day. The tuba has gained popularity and now Smith notes that he has one of the largest studios at Ohio University.

Though OCTUBAFEST is a widely celebrated event, Oktoboefest is unique to Ohio University.

"She came up with this name, whether or not she copied OCTUBAFEST doesn't matter, but it got your attention and it got other people's attention and that's the whole idea Harvey had when he created OCTUBAFEST, to get people's attention about the tuba euphonium," Smith said. "Not many people expect oboe to be at the forefront. It's great. I think it's wonderful."

Fiala said she decided to hold an Oktoboefest because a few years ago, many events she was hosting happened to fall in the month of October. It just made sense to tie them all together. Like OCTUBAFEST, Fiala said that she wanted to use Oktoboefest to showcase the oboe, an instrument that isn't usually featured.

"This is going to be something that community members haven't heard a lot of and there's very diverse programming out of interesting music that they wouldn't have heard before and will enjoy," Fiala said.