There was no rest for the musicians of the Cal Poly wind bands this Veteran’s Day, as they prepare for their own D-day: Bandfest 2009.
At 8 p.m. this Saturday, the two Cal Poly wind bands will join the Pride of the Pacific Marching Band to perform their annual Bandfest at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center.
This year’s title is “A Whirlwind of Color and Sound” and the concert will be conducted by music department professor William Johnson and associate conductor Professor Christopher J. Woodruff. Johnson, who founded Bandfest 43 years ago , will retire as conductor after this year’s performance.
This is a major event in the fall season for the Cal Poly wind bands, and they have been rehearsing intensely from the very beginning of the fall quarter, Woodruff said.
“Professional performers rehearse two or three times to perform several times,” Woodruff said. “Our bands will have rehearsed for ten weeks to perform once. They know the pieces backwards now. To perform only one time is very special.”
There are two Cal Poly wind bands: The Wind Orchestra and the Wind Ensemble, and together they are comprised of 121 students.
Bandfest is also an opportunity for the Cal Poly Marching Band to show its talent on a stage in front of a real music audience.
“It’s a better condition than to play outside,” bass trombone player and city and regional planning sophomore Alex Jacobius said. “And we get to show people that we can play music properly. We take advantage of [the occasion].”
Woodruff is also pleased about the Marching Band performing on stage.
“The Marching Band is big, and strong, and the audience is going to be blown away by its energy,” Woodruff said. “It is going to be visually very interesting. They will be spinning flags, rifles, sabers. There will be a baton twirler too, but not a fire baton, because it’s dangerous.”
Every year, Bandfest has a different theme, and this year’s theme is “the sky” — as is implied by the title of the program. The Wind Bands will play titles such as “Whirlwinds” by Richard Saucedo, in which each instrument gets its own solo part, and “To Tame the Perilous Skies” by David Holsinger. The audience will then be taken into space with pieces such as the “Star Trek Theme” by Jerry Goldsmith, and “Twelve Seconds To The Moon” by Robert W. Smith, a direct nod to the first historical flight by the Wright brothers which lasted 12 seconds.
“The title came afterwards, after we looked at the pieces that we chose,” Johnson said. “One of the things about Bandfest is that it is a festival. We want to provide a concert which has something for everybody, and so we have a great variety (of pieces). People won’t come back if they don’t like it, so we put in lots of consideration. With the two orchestras and the Marching Band, we have phenomenal variety.”
The Marching Band will be performing more classic pieces, such as the “Star Wars Theme” by John Williams, and the “Magic Carpet Ride” by John Kay and Rushton Moreve.
“All the pieces are really full of excitement and emotions,” saxophonist and music junior Lauren Wasynczuk said. “It’s going to be great. Everyone wants to be here.”
Mechanical engineering senior Tim Ulrich said that a piece to watch (listen) out for is “To Tame The Perilous Skies.”
“It’s climatic and dramatic, and it paints a picture with the music,” he said.
“The Marching Band is always a hit,” computer engineering sophomore Paul Case said. “The audience should be leaving their hair blown back by the awesomeness.
The professors share this confidence.
“It is the strongest group of wind and percussion students we have had since I’ve been here,” Johnson said. “High talent, high ability to learn, and high dedication. As a teacher, I can’t ask for more than that.”
Even as Bandfest approaches, the Wind Bands are already looking beyond and contemplating their next challenge: a performance in the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. They are set to perform as part of the Los Angeles International Music Festival next June, and will start rehearsing in three weeks. All of the money raised at Bandfest will be used to support their trip.
“It’s a once in a lifetime event for most of the students, but right now, the students are fronting the expenses,” Woodruff said. He said he is hopeful the funds collected with Bandfest will lessen the students’ load.
Regular tickets are available at the Performing Arts Center, or their Web site (http://www.pacslo.org/), and cost $16 for the general public, $13 for seniors and $8 for students.