Boom! Pluck! Toot! GCU bands ready for new season
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
When Paul Koch looks back on his first two years as director of bands at Grand Canyon University, an order – a rhythm, if you will – emerges.
First year: Roll up your sleeves. Create a pep band. Survive.
Second year: Establish traditions. Make your mark. Build.
And now, at the start of his third year, Koch is approaching a new phase that’s similar to what people experience when they make a lot of progress with their physical fitness: Don’t let yourself down. Keep working. Harder.
“The first 30 pounds are easy to lose, it’s the last five that are the hardest,” said Koch, who actually participates twice a week in GCU’s lunchtime boot camp. “People have seen that we’ve arrived, our students are playing collegiate- and professional-level music — not lesser quality music just to sound good — and we have to live up to what we’ve already established. We have to work harder than ever to continue our growth as an ensemble.”
GCU’s bands kicked off their 2014-15 season Tuesday with “Java and Jazz” in the Student Union. Now in its second year, the event featured the 18-member Thunder Big Band playing music of the 1920s and 1930s.
The audiences heard Latin, big band-era jazz, ballads and other tunes that were relatable to all listeners.
A week later, the Thunderstruck Percussion Ensemble, along with GCU’s new Guitar Ensemble, will perform for the first time this semester. “Boom! Pluck!” is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in First Southern Baptist Church, 3100 W. Camelback Road, on the far southeast side of the University’s main campus.
The Percussion Ensemble, with nine students, will perform a high-energy, groove-oriented piece, “Bøffer” by Thomas Agergaard, and a selection, inspired by bird clusters, called “Vespertine Formations” by Christopher Deane. “Angels of the Apocalypse,” influenced by the book of Revelation, also will be played.
The seven-member Guitar Ensemble is the brainchild of and will be directed by GCU adjunct professor Dr. Jonathan Crissman, who also leads the guitar ensemble at Arizona State University.
“The ensemble is a great way for music-education majors to learn about teaching guitar and have those skills later when they begin their careers,” Crissman said. “We’re playing some great music, and the students, including some from the new Worship Arts Program, are building their skills rehearsing and performing with other musicians. It’s one thing to practice by yourself in a room, but you take it to another level when you work together.”
The ensemble will perform folk songs in addition to works that have Brazilian, Greek and Caribbean origins, he said. Audience members may not recognize the pieces, but Crissman predicted they’ll enjoy it. “It’s folk music — music of the people — so it connects really well with people,” he said.
Finally, GCU’s Wind Ensemble will launch its season with “We Remember” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, in First Southern Baptist Church. The 45-member group, a combination of percussion and wind instruments, is known for its symphonic music.
For this concert, which is the day after Veterans Day, the ensemble will be the familiar, patriotic “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, as well as “George Washington Bridge” by William Schuman, and “Elegy for a Young American,” by Ronald Lo Presti. It will be guest conducted by Lt. Col. Frank Dubuy, a GCU adjunct faculty member and former director of military bands at the U.S. Military Academy.
“This concert will be a celebration of military heroes, and giving thanks that we can do what we do because they did what they did,” Koch said.
Admission to all band concerts is free.
Contact Janie Magruder at 602-639-8018 or [email protected].