Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble performance honor late mentor

Jessica Simek, music education sophomore, watches Matthew Luttrell, associate professor of music, for cues during rehearsal before the Wind Ensemble Performance that same night on Oct. 5 in Akin Auditorium. Photo by Rachel Johnson

Silence filled Akin Auditorium. The Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble had finished performing one of associate professor and director of bands and orchestra Matthew Luttrell’s favorite pieces from Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, WWV 75: Act II, Scene IV: Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral.

Luttrell then came on stage to introduce the final piece, Give Us This Day- Short Symphony. He shared with the crowd a favorite memory of David Maslanka, a conductor who died from an aggressive form of colon cancer on earlier this fall.

During rehearsals, Maslanka frequently told Luttrell that his tempo was incorrect: Luttrell sped up his tempo whenever he thought a piece should be played faster. Before one performance, Luttrell was certain he would finally prove his point to who would later on become his mentor.

“That night, I was going to show him,” Luttrell said. “When I got up there to perform, it just clicked. I had to excuse myself after. I’m sorry I told him and he just [Luttrell motioned his hands] and told me I shouldn’t have to apologize.”

Luttrell first met Maslanka at University of Colorado-Boulder, coincidentally rehearsing one of his pieces.

“I was a trombone player — he [Maslanka] walked in and was wearing his sweatsuit, mismatched socks and just nasty jogging shoes. We actually looked at him and thought to ourselves, this guy is lost. Who is this guy?” Luttrell said.

That Maslanka walked up to the podium to practice the piece, Luttrell and his bandmates were shocked.

“We were like, ‘holy cow,'” he said.

Luttrell said he chooses pieces musics based on quality and what will fit the musicians’ ability level as a whole.

“I try to put all that together to create a concert where the flow,” Luttrell said. “From the beginning to end has some nuance, some pizzazz, whatever you want to call it. And it’s gonna keep the audience engrained.”

Ali Johnson, music performance sophomore, said she definitely felt engrained. Gives Us This Day was her favorite piece: she felt that all of the pieces conveyed the emotions Matthew Luttrell described them as.

“It was pretty emotional and it had a lot of movement,” Johnson said. “It kept me engaged.” 

Johnson said she heard about the Oct. 5 event through flyers in the band hall and through word of mouth. She believes that the importance of on campus events to create awareness of performance variety the university has.

“It’s important to be diverse in what you go to, things that you do. Get out every once in a while and do something new,” Johnson said.

Prosper Kaseke, music education senior, said he believes there is a large appreciation of the arts on campus. He has been performing at the university for three years. 

“The campus really does appreciate the arts in giving us this opportunity to perform for our different events, a celebration of scholarship,” Kaseke said.

UPCOMING MUSIC DEPARTMENT EVENTS:

  • Music Series at Akin: Escher Quartet
    Oct. 24 7:30 pm, Akin Auditorium
  • Faculty Recital
    Oct. 26 7:30 pm, Akin Auditorium