A Night of Combined Artistic Expression

Dr. Leslie Stewart rehearses with the CSU Concert OrchestraBy Brody Hornaday, SMTD Publicity Intern

In the midst of a busy first semester, the students from Colorado State University’s Concert Band and Concert Orchestra take the stage on March 4 to bring a unique and immersive musical experience to the community. This free performance by the University Center for the Arts promises an evening of Italian themes, pieces inspired by the life of Oliver Sacks, and soloists getting a chance to flex their musical muscles.

Leslie Stewart, faculty member of the music department and director of the Concert Orchestra, includes Concerto Grosso No. 9 by Italian composer Pietro Antonio Locatelli, and Concerto Grosso No. 1 by American-Swiss composer Ernest Bloch. The program’s name, “Baroque and Beyond,” is an ode to the concerto grosso style of the pieces and its popularity during the baroque period.

When Stewart is choosing the repertoire for a performance, she likes to build a program that best compliments the soloists. One featured soloist in particular has Stewart excited for the performance. “This concert features professor Adam Torres whom I have known since he was a graduate student in orchestral conducting at CSU,” said Stewart. “He is an outstanding pianist, performing frequently with the Fort Collins and Cheyenne Symphonies.”

While the concerto grosso form does allow soloists to showcase their skills, it also leaves plenty of room for collaboration between all of the musicians. “[Concerto Grosso No. 9] showcases several of our first chair players who have frequent solos, which are ‘answered’ by the larger (grosso) orchestra,” Stewart said.

The Concert Band, directed by Dr. Erik Johnson, is performing music inspired by the life of British neurologist Oliver Sacks. “His works overflow with curiosity and inspiration and I wanted to share/expose his work with students in the concert band,” Johnson said. “I truly hope that the audience is able to reflect on elements of their own life's events with some degree of gratitude through the vehicle of the gratitude felt by another.”

Dr. Johnson is having the band perform Amazing Grace in a traditional arrangement by William Himes, The Harmonious Blacksmith and selected movements from Water Music both by Georg Frideric Handel, Sundance by Frank Ticheli, and Elements: Petite Symphony by Brian Balmages. Dr. Johnson adds that the composers’ music has “respect for all of the natural elements in our world.”

Working with students from different colleges across the map at CSU has been a rewarding experience for both directors. “I love working with Concert Orchestra because its mission is the same as mine: to help people keep music
in their life after high school. Music can be a great stress reducer and can provide a healthy balance for students who are majoring in other fields, especially the sciences,” explained Stewart.

Dr. Johnson mirrors these thoughts and adds that he finds inspiration from students who are invested in their musicianship and have fun enjoying the power of the music. “The process is exhilarating, especially when you see that the musicians are coming from all different walks of life. What binds us together is the pursuit of artistic expression through sound,” Johnson said.

The concert takes place at the University Center for the Arts’ Griffin Concert Hall on Sunday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.