The mysteries of space have inspired Elon University’s Elon Music Ambassadors’ (EMA) spring concert “Beyond the Sky,” which will be performed 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Yeager Recital Hall.

Virginia Novine-Whittaker, saxophone instructor and the group’s director, said she was fascinated by the unknowns of the universe and thought it was a great theme that encompasses several genres and eras of music.

“When people are fascinated by or don’t quite understand something, they write music about it,” Novine-Whittaker said.

EMA was initially inspired by Novine-Whittaker’s previous musical group, a saxophone quartet that toured high schools to recruit potential Elon students.

Four years later, that’s still the main goal. The group has grown to include a broader representation of music, from vocals to instruments such as trombone, flute and guitar.

To become a member of EMA, students must be music majors and be recommended by professors in the music department. Novine-Whittaker said students should not only be strong performers, but they must also have leadership qualities and the ability to work as a team.

This semester, the ensemble has 12 students, the largest it has been since it began in 2011.

Senior Nicole Payne got involved with EMA after Novine-Whittaker invited her to join. She said it’s a hands-on learning experience because students arrange all of their own music.

“We split up into groups for arranging and write all of the parts,” Payne said. “We also write introductions for our concerts, which we make very interactive and educational.”

Students spend the first half of the semester collaborating on and researching pieces and the latter half rehearsing.

“Beyond the Sky” has 13 pieces with selections pertaining to outer space, flight and the possibilities of what lies beyond the horizon.

“I love arriving at the moment where everything clicks into place,” said senior Lianna Mills. “The music and lyrics suddenly hold a newfound meaning, and we all begin to get pumped for the show and tour.”

In contrast to previous concerts, “Beyond the Sky” focuses more on song lyrics and portraying the theme of the mysteries of space than the music itself. The set list ranges from “Fly Me to the Moon” to “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

Starting May 17, EMA will go on tour to Maryland schools to recruit high school students for Elon’s music program. The group has toured 32 high schools in five states over the past two years, performing for about 4,000 high school students.

Each tour features different genres of music, such as classical jazz, rock and Latin. Novine-Whittaker said it is important to showcase various genres because it can appeal to every member of the audience, inspiring them to pursue music at Elon.

As director, Novine-Whittaker is involved with every aspect of EMA. She watches her students throughout the creative process and gains inspiration from them.

“My students’ creativity knows no bounds,” Whittaker said. “When you allow a student to create a climate, their creativity soars.”

By working closely together on arrangements during rehearsals throughout the semester, Mills has forged a close bond with the students in EMA.

“I love exploring the group dynamics and getting to know members on a more personal level,” Mills said. “That’s what music does best — uniting individuals and forming a community.”


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