Western Carolina University’s School of Music has initiated a new artist-in-residence program this semester, formalizing a partnership with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra to bring professional string musicians to campus for performances with WCU’s woodwind, brass and percussion students and choral ensembles.
The artist-in-residence program is an outgrowth of a smaller effort launched in the 1990s to try to provide students with experience performing in an orchestra setting, said Will Peebles, director of the WCU School of Music.
“Music faculty have long wanted to establish an orchestral program at the university but, without a multimillion dollar endowment, trying to do that with a traditional orchestra of all-student players would be impossible,” Peebles said. “In some ways, this program will provide a more realistic professional experience for our students. Students will have preliminary rehearsals, and then dive right in with the professional players for a weekend of intensive rehearsals culminating with a public concert.”
Through the artist-in-residence arrangement, the School of Music has access to professional-level orchestral and string programs on a continuing basis, and students will perform major works of the orchestral repertoire with professional players, said Robert Kehrberg, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts.
“This is a unique program and reflects the spirit and intent of outside collaboration with the professional musicians in the region. Our students will have the opportunity to perform with working professionals on an annual basis,” Kehrberg said. “It combines the talents of musicians from across the region with our professional training programs in music, providing cultural experiences not currently available for all the members of the university and surrounding communities. This is exciting.”
Through the program, Asheville Symphony string players will be performing with WCU faculty and students for recitals of a variety of musical types, including chamber, choral and opera performances.
In addition to providing talent for public performances, the partnership also provides learning opportunities for WCU students, which could translate into increased interest in the School of Music on the part of prospective students, Peebles said.
“As this program develops a reputation for fine performances, we hope to attract student string players who would welcome the opportunity to pursue their musical studies at Western. In the past, we’ve had to turn these students away,” he said.
The arrangement also has benefits for the orchestra and its musicians, said Sally J. Keeney, artistic administrator for the Asheville Symphony.
“Most of our musicians have a studio of students and therefore enjoy mentoring. The WCU wind, brass and percussion students are well prepared and are enthusiastic to perform these major orchestral works,” Keeney said. “The artist-in-residence programs also provide other work for the ASO musicians. Our concerts are presented in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in downtown Asheville in less-than-perfect acoustics. The Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center is a wonderful venue that we always enjoy.”
Asheville Symphony string musicians already have performed as part of an orchestral concert during the university’s DADA Festival in September. The artist-in-residence program also will feature Asheville Symphony string musicians for:
• Music for double reeds and strings, with WCU faculty Terri Armfield, oboe, and Will Peebles, bassoon; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, Coulter Building recital hall.
• Orchestra for “Tarzan of the Apes,” a live radio show presented in collaboration with the School of Stage and Screen, School of Art and Design, and the Department of Communications; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.
• Choral concert featuring the music of guest composter Ola Gjielo; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, Bardo Arts Center.
• Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Medium,” a chamber opera featuring student vocalists and instrumentalists, Saturday-Sunday, April 6-7, Haywood Arts Repertory Theatre in Waynesville.
• Mozart’s “Requiem,” presented by Asheville Symphony and Symphony Chorus, and WCU concert choir; 3 p.m., Sunday, April 21.
“Bringing live orchestral music to campus adds an exciting dimension to the School of Music’s current concert series, which numbers more than 150 free concerts per year, including faculty, guest artist and student recitals, ensemble concerts and performances of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band,” said Kehrberg.
For more information, visit the School of Music’s webpage at music.wcu.edu or call 828-227-7242.