Open House weekend is a great opportunity for potential students and their parents to get a full sampling of all Cal Poly has to offer. As with any first impression, it’s important to trot out the best the campus can manage. That’s why, on Friday night, the keys to the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) were handed over to the Music Department to showcase Cal Poly’s Symphony and Wind Ensemble, as well as the University Jazz Band I. Essentially, this amounts to approximately 100 of “the best we’ve got” when it comes to musicians.
The campus may have been bustling with visitors during daylight hours, but once the sun dipped below the horizon, and the curtain rose to reveal the Jazz Band, the place felt like a subway station late at night — no matter how talented the musicians were, nary a soul stuck around to watch. That is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration, but I have to give a disappointed shake of my head to Mustangs and potential future Mustangs. Where’s the support for this immensely talented group? At the very least, the Open House Concert was a chance to treat one’s ears to some exquisite melodies before they (the ears) get butchered by howls of demonic machines the next day at the tractor pull.
Luckily, these musicians are more dedicated to their craft than to their peers who failed to show. The Jazz Band struck the first chords with two punchy pieces to set off a saxophone-fueled adrenaline rush, though the arrangements were about as democratic as they could be. Jazz Band director Paul Rinzler took on a role like that of Oprah by giving at least six band members the opportunity to solo.
“You get a solo! You get a solo!” he seemed to indicate with his silent gestures. It’s a fortunate thing too, because each solo, whether on sax, drums, piano or trombone, was beyond worthy of that great gift of existence.
The big band jazz experience was short lived, but up next was the Cal Poly Symphony, an equally euphonious group despite its natural confinement to more classical pieces. The pit orchestra floor ascended to stage-level with the help of invisible motors for the occasion, a fitting pedestal for this well-dressed collection of volunteering professionals.
The Symphony’s rendition of two movements from Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2 in D Major” spanned the emotional spectrum with a dreamy and ethereal refrain punctuated by nearly-frightening bursts of color and energy, not to mention impressively long spans of continuous drumroll.
The Symphony’s exciting sound gave way to the spirited musings of the Wind Ensemble and guest bass trombone soloist and music senior Rose Doylemason. Her style proved impressively smooth and polished — qualities reflective of the entire Ensemble — when it dove wholeheartedly into “Aerospace,” a modern, celestial piece reminiscent of basically every sci-fi soundtrack and featuring a recording of Neil Armstrong’s famous line. It then finished off the fast-paced concert with “Oh, Henry!” a march with all the subtlety of big tractors pulling a big hunk of metal but the finesse of, well, an orchestra.