University Wind Ensemble “Connects” with University Lab School Concert Band
On Sunday, February 24th at 4PM, the University Wind Ensemble (UWE) presents “Connections,” the 2013 Winter Concert in the Reva and David Logan Center Performance Hall. For this concert, the Wind Ensemble will perform with the University of Chicago Lab School Concert Band. Chip De Stefano, Director of UWE, elaborates on the “connection.”
We’re extremely excited about this joint concert. Not only is this the first collaboration between the University Wind Ensemble and the Lab School Band, that we’re aware of, but it’s our first opportunity to perform in the Logan Center Performance Hall. It’s a great chance for our students to provide some mentoring, and hopefully inspiration, to the high school students, and we hope to draw a large audience for the performance.
As Director of the Wind Ensemble, what possibilities for growth to do see for the ensemble? Do you have any special goals or particular repertoire that you see the ensemble working towards?
The University of Chicago has so many wonderful and diverse performing ensembles that I’d really love to see the Wind Ensemble regularly collaborate with the other groups. Scheduling, and finding appropriate repertoire, will always be the challenge, but I think this type of thing would be just as different and fun for the students as it would be for the audience. In the short time I’ve been Director of the Wind Ensemble, we haven’t had the opportunity to bring in a guest soloist. I’d love to do this and believe it’d be a nice change of pace on a program and could be quite inspirational for our students. We’re working to make both these things happen…so hopefully soon!
What motivated you to become a professional musician and director? Did you personally have a director that you found inspiring over the years?
I really knew that this is what I wanted to do almost immediately after I joined band in 6th grade, and I’ve had wonderful directors and teachers every step of the way. It’s very difficult, and probably not fair, to decide who was the most inspiring. Perhaps because they are no longer with us, I find myself thinking of Frank Crisafulli (trombone professor at Northwestern University) and John P. Paynter (Director of Bands at Northwestern University) often. I’m reminded of something they said, or did, nearly every day in my teaching. Although that’s true of several people I had the privilege to study under.
As well as being the Director of the University of Chicago Wind Ensemble, you are also the Director of Bands at McCracken Middle School in Skokie, Illinois. With you as director, this program has been nationally recognized with numerous state and national conference performances and several other awards. Could you share a bit about your experience working with two different age groups and ability levels simultaneously? Do you find the transition between the two to be natural or is it an exciting challenge?
It’s really enjoyable to have the chance to work with the two very different age groups. Obviously there’s a big difference in the difficulty of the repertoire with both groups, but most of the musical and technical concepts that are being developed in rehearsal are actually quite similar. We’re still addressing technical issues, tone, pitch, style and expression, but the depths at which we’re able to discuss those with the UWE is much deeper than I can with my middle school students.
The most striking difference to me is always that with younger students I usually have to repeat myself several times before a concept sticks, while once is often enough for the older students. It’s a very nice change from what I’m used to!
You know, I think what I enjoy most, however, is this: Most of the students in the UWE are non-music majors. They’re intelligent, talented, mature, and caring students who continue to perform because they love music and they see and feel the intrinsic value that music and performing continues to have in their lives. They are exactly who I want my middle school students to become. The vast majority of my middle school students are not going to become professional musicians, but if I can instill that love and passion for music in them at their young age then they are much more likely to continue to perform and be strong advocates for arts education when they become adults. Getting to work with students that are on both ends of that journey is really special.
Interview by Julia Tobiska