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Wind Ensemble to premiere composition honoring victims of S.C. church shooting

WKU group to debut ‘Of Our New Day Begun’ by Omar Thomas on Feb. 20 at conference in Charleston near Emanuel AME Church

The WKU Wind Ensemble will perform next month at the 2016 CBDNA/NBA Southern Division conference in Charleston, South Carolina, and will present the world premiere of a new work written to honor nine victims of a church shooting there last June.

WKU Wind Ensemble

WKU Wind Ensemble

Of Our New Day Begun was composed by Omar Thomas, a young African American composer who teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The WKU Wind Ensemble, led by Dr. Gary Schallert, will present the work during a concert at 3:30 p.m. ET Feb. 20.

The College Band Directors National Association/National Band Association conference will held Feb. 18-20 at the Gaillard Center in downtown Charleston, just blocks from historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where the shooting occurred on June 17, 2015.

“We are excited to premiere this new piece of music in Charleston,” said Dr. Schallert, Music Professor and Director of Bands at WKU. “To have that piece of music premiered by our ensemble at this major conference is pretty special and I think they realize that and they are getting excited about it.”

When the WKU Wind Ensemble received the invitation to perform at the conference in early July 2015, about two weeks after the tragedy in Charleston, Dr. Schallert organized a consortium of 37 university, professional and high school bands from across the country to commission the work.

“I reached out to Omar Thomas to see if he would be interested in writing a piece of music that would pay homage to those who died in the tragic shooting,” Dr. Schallert said.

Omar Thomas

Omar Thomas

Thomas said his greatest challenge in creating Of Our New Day Begun was walking the line between his reverence for the victims and their families and his bitter feelings about the perpetrator. “I realized that the most powerful musical expression I could offer incorporated elements from both sides of that line – embracing my pain and anger while being moved by the displays of grace and forgiveness demonstrated by the victims’ families,” he said.

Thomas will attend the world premiere of his work. Members of the church also have been invited to attend the premiere.

The musical themes and ideas of the 10½-minute piece are rooted in the black American church tradition, Thomas said. “Historically, black Americans have, in great number, turned to the church to find refuge and grounding in the most trying of times,” he said.

Dr. Schallert and the WKU Wind Ensemble received the score and parts to Of Our New Day Begun in late November. Rehearsals will resume next week as Wind Ensemble students return to campus.

The 50-member Wind Ensemble is comprised of the finest woodwind, brass and percussion students at WKU, Dr. Schallert said.

“This is a great opportunity for the program, for the students, for Dr. Schallert and for our department,” said Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Music Department. “We strive to create an environment in the Department of Music where faculty and students share experiences and learn together.”

Sophomore Amber Lamastus of Bowling Green said students are excited to perform Of Our New Day Begun as part of the prestigious conference. “It’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Lamastus, who plays trumpet.

Groups are chosen for the CBDNA conference through a competitive application process with a panel of distinguished university band conductors from across the country selecting WKU from dozens of applications submitted for consideration.

“Receiving an invitation to perform at this conference is a huge honor for the University Band program and the WKU Department of Music,” Dr. Schallert said. “The CBDNA performance is to college concert bands what a bowl game is to college football programs.”

In addition to Of Our New Day Begun, the WKU Wind Ensemble’s CBDNA concert will include Postlude in F by Charles Ives; Stubernic Fantasy by Mark Ford, featuring Dr. Harris, Music Education major Ben Lee and Music Professor Mark Berry on a marimba trio with band accompaniment; Recoil by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner; and Carl Friedemann’s Slavonic Rhapsody No. 1.

Prior to the CBDNA conference, the WKU Wind Ensemble will perform at the Kentucky Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference in Louisville at 4:40 p.m. Feb. 5 and will present a CBDNA Send Off Concert in Bowling Green at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at Music Hall on the WKU campus.

The WKU group will leave for Charleston on Feb. 18 and travel by bus to Atlanta where they will present a recruiting and outreach concert at Norcross High School in the northern Atlanta area. The group will continue to Charleston on Feb. 19 and will attend performance and conference events. On Feb. 20, the group will have a sound check and rehearsal on the stage in the morning before the afternoon performance.

The CBDNA Southern Division includes bands/schools from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Other groups scheduled to perform at the 2016 conference are Charleston Wind Symphony, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Wind Symphony, Florida Atlantic University, Lovinggood Middle School 8th Grade Symphonic Band, Kennesaw State University, Liberty University Wind Symphony, Palmetto Concert Band, Riverwatch Middle School Symphonic Band, Timber Creek High School and West Orange High School Wind Ensembles, University of Florida, University of Louisville and University of South Florida.

Members of the WKU Wind Ensemble include:

  • Flute: Emma King of Madisonville; Desiree DeLoge of Brownsville; China Brown of Madisonville; Brenna Derby of Bowling Green; Alicia Yoho of Hopkinsville
  • Oboe/English Horn: Angela Cook of Greenville; Lauren Witty of Greensburg; Cynthia Fernandez of Henderson
  • Bassoon: Christopher Allpress of Russellville; Callie Compton of Fayetteville, Tennessee
  • Contrabassoon: Karthik Boyareddygari of Bowling Green
  • Clarinet: Jamey Buchanan of Glasgow; Jose Carlos Rodriguez of Hopkinsville; Christina Sohn of Louisville; Tanner Age of Brandenburg; Macie Kidd of Somerset; Tabitha Conley of Bee Spring; Timothy Aguilos of Elizabethtown; Nathan Reichert of Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Bass Clarinet: Jerry Ross of Louisville; Courtney Lyttle of Vine Grove
  • Alto Saxophone: Daniel Finch of Crestwood; Paul Vickous of Bowling Green
  • Tenor Saxophone: Joe Hamilton of Owensboro
  • Baritone Saxophone: Gavyn Westmoreland of Radcliff
  • Horn: Liz Cornwell of Louisville; Caelan McDonald of Bowling Green; Sam Rapini of St. Louis, Missouri; Ethan Smith of Lexington
  • Trumpet: Joseph Powers of Owensboro; Andrea Gray of Hopkinsville; Amber Lamastus of Rockfield; Rick Raaf of St. Louis, Missouri; Steven Teleky of Union
  • Trombone: Jacob Sturgeon of Glasgow; Jake Tabor of Marion; Caleb Williams of Russellville; Noal McLimore of Greenville
  • Euphonium: Josh Scott of Burkesville; Will Kimmell of Bremen
  • Tuba: Kevin Anderson of Radcliff; Adam Carbone of Louisville
  • Percussion: Ben Lee of Russell Springs; Sam Rouster of Fort Mitchell; Forrest Yankey of Greenville, Indiana; A.J. Cook of Princeton; Lucas Allen of Bowling Green; Joshua Mitchell of Elizabethtown
  • String Bass: Liz Ward of San Antonio, Texas
  • Piano/Celesta: Ryan Jones of Bremen

More: Program notes for Of Our New Day Begun; composer Omar Thomas bio; Dr. Gary Schallert bio; list of WKU Wind Ensemble members

Contact: Gary Schallert, (270) 745-5893

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