With both contemporary and classical music coming from the strings, the Elon University Orchestra will perform its spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19 in McCrary Theatre.

Directed by Thomas Erdmann, professor of music, the orchestra consists of Elon students of all years and majors as well as community members outside of campus.

To audition for the orchestra, students must play two prepared pieces, a sight reading piece and two scales for faculty members.

Sophomore Rebecca Surprenant has played the violin her whole life, and despite being a public health major, she wanted to continue her passion while at Elon.

She got involved with orchestra right away after returning from Elon’s Gap semester program her freshman year.

“Playing the violin is a huge part of who I am and being in the orchestra is a great way for me to continue to play and be in a group because I have grown up playing in tons of different orchestras,” Surprenant said.

Surprenant plays alongside members of the greater Elon community who volunteer their time to pursue their passion for music.

Community members range from young adults who are masters students to retired senior citizens. Some members still play in professional symphonies.

“If you grow up as a classical musician, it’s the kind of thing where you don’t retire,” said junior Isaac Bates. “That’s what I love about the industry — there’s really passionate people who just do it because they want to and they love seeing young kids getting into it, too.”

The concert features contemporary music and classical sounds, as well as a challenging piece called “MarimbaVibe” by Michael Mantler.

“Playing the song is challenging because as a musician you approach music from, ‘Does this sound good to me? How will it move my soul and the audience’s emotions?’” Bates said. “It is hard to listen to a piece that is purposefully dissonant. It’s like the hipster of the classical music scene.”

The piece also features Mariana Poole ‘10, adjunct instructor and Elon music graduate.

Poole was approached by Erdmann two years ago about performing the difficult piece.

“My practice strategy is typically repetition of small sections that I can link into larger ideas,” Poole said. “But this piece in particular is a challenge because it does not have a specific key, its melody is very unusual and hard to memorize.”

When she isn’t teaching music classes or directing Elon’s percussion ensemble, Poole is rehearsing her solo with the orchestra.

“I really enjoy working with such high quality musicians,” Poole said. “It’s fun to get to interact musically with a group of people that put so much into their work.”

Each piece has a different feel to it, such as three pieces composed by Edvard Grieg, Norwegian composer and pianist.

“[Grieg’s piece] is my favorite because it is more upbeat and showcases all of the different parts of the orchestra — it’s fun,” Surprenant said.

Junior Cindy Kuo, who plays the viola, said she prefers playing pieces that are more classical.

“I love Mozart because it is so clean-cut,” Kuo said. “Contemporary makes up most of our concert, and it’s a difficult genre to play.”

Kuo believes orchestra is special because as a finance major, she is able to interact with different students on campus by playing in the orchestra.

“I lived in the same building as my stand partner freshman year, and I would not have seen him otherwise if it weren’t for orchestra,” Kuo said.

Many students involved in the orchestra have pursued music their entire lives and want to continue to do so in the future. 

“Growing up, I played violin with the same group of people and became really close with them,” Surprenant said. “It’s cool to have that musical experience because I grew up where everyone knew I was a violinist and that was very much my identity.”

Bates has been involved with music ensembles such as chorale, percussion ensemble and Techtronica, an ensemble focused on the use of technology in musical performances of popular music. Bates said the most rewarding aspect of being in an ensemble is when it all comes together.

“There’s a tangible atmosphere when you have a really good performance or in rehearsal when it’s been going bad and everyone in the last 30 minutes pumps out a really great performance,” Bates said. “It’s moments like that when everything clicks that I live for in music, when everyone gets on the same page.”


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