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Musicians impress at second annual Woodwind Day

April 11, 2018

Beneath puckered lips, warm lights reflected against the cold shiny metal that trembled as Joseph Schwantners’ Black Anemones (1981) pierced through the walls of Akin Auditorium on April 10.

Shattering the silence that could have made a pin drop sound like a marching band, Amy Thiemann, adjunct flute instructor and James Benecasa, pianist, made the opening performance at the music department’s second annual Woodwind Day.

It’s such a special thing that we do as musicians whether you are a teacher or a student, an amateur musician or professional. Just so special how we connect with music and with other people,” Thiemann said.

Last year, Thiemann and Andrew Allen, associate professor of music, spearheaded the first-time initiative with the idea to introduce younger students in the surrounding communities to the music opportunities that exist on campus.

We wanted to get a lot of high school kids in and possibly middle school kids, so we came up with the idea, worked with students for a couple of hours then we had a concert where we had a mass woodwind ensemble. This year we were lucky enough to add Emily Stanfill as an additional professor and [we] brought in an even greater number of young players [in] three individual groups,” Allen said.

Allen, who has an extensive background in music, said the festival is a great service to students in the area.

“You get kids on campus of course, you expose them to MSU [and] you expose them to us teachers. They have excellent band directors and those band directors sometimes are specialists on one instrument or another. It gives the students an opportunity to spend two hours with a specialist on their instrument that they may not be able to get every day,” he said.

With around 100 people in attendance, Allen said he was more than satisfied given the preparation that goes into any production.

“It’s a lot of pre-work because normally, for any university ensemble, we’d be working weeks or several months in advance. For this, we only get one afternoon. So we try to lay out everything in advance beforehand so things go smoothly. I thought the turnout was great especially since it’s a Tuesday night in April. 100 plus people, I’ll take that any day of the week,” Allen said.

Thiemann said she was “definitely proud” of her students and their ability to connect not only with themselves and the music, but with the audience as well.

“I simply want them to relax as much as possible and be in the moment, which is difficult when you’re performing, focusing on details and trying to get everything as you’ve practiced it in the practice room or rehearsal, but I really want them [to] enjoy the music that they’re making whether it’s by themselves or as a group,” Thiemann said.

She said as an instructor, even she gets nervous.

That’s actually something that I have always throughout my career, my education [had] to be mindful of. I’m a perfectionist, so when I practice and when I perform, I set a very high bar for myself and I put pressure on myself to meet that bar. I get nervous thinking I might not be able to do as well as I know I can,” Thiemann said.

Thiemann said her coping method is to simply remember her passion for the art.

“I remind myself why I’m doing it in the first place, which is because I love music and I want to speak to people with my flute. That calms me down, and when I’m onstage, I try as much as possible to be in the moment and really speaking to them through my flute,” Thiemann said.

She also shared her inspiration behind wanting to teach.

“When I was in high school I had a really great high school band director and he made this significant impact on myself as a person and myself as a musician and he really made me want to be a musician. I wanted to be like him. And then when I got to college I was like I’m not sure if I want to be a public school band director but I know I want to teach,” Thiemann said.

She said her biggest motivation is helping students become their best selves.

“As a flutist, I can do private teaching. I love teaching details at the highest level and through a lot of school, I got my doctorate recently and I was able to get the job here. I love working with the students here and really helping students realize their full potential,” she said.

Omar Ornelas, sophomore at Wichita Falls High School, plays contra alto and bass clarinet and has been playing in his school band since 7th grade.

“I sometimes get nervous, but what I do is I think of something that will calm me down a bit. Once I’m calmed down enough, I’ll practice a little bit on my instrument and get myself ready for the performance,” Ornelas said. “I’d say I played pretty good, I had a few mess ups, but they weren’t too big.”

Ornelas said it takes a lot of practice to be able to play a piece well, but playing an instrument is something he would encourage any young person to do.

“I would recommend it to other students; it is very fun. It’s very good discipline and you get to see a lot of other places you wouldn’t really see yourself going to and you meet a lot of new people and maybe make new friends,” he said.

Attendees of the concert, like biology freshman Chaniqua Moses, said this event gave them an outlet to appreciate music majors in a different way.

“As a science major it was a refreshing experience, a change from the typical analytical landscape to something more liberal and free-spirited,” Moses said. “It really gave me an appreciation for a field of study that’s completely different from mine.”

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