In addition to the Colorado State University Faculty Chamber Winds performing at the MidEurope Festival for Wind Music in Schladming, Austria, CSU music education major and percussionist Spencer Poston also participated in the festival as a member of the World Youth Wind Orchestra Project.
Initially, Spencer wasn’t sure about applying for the ensemble when his professor, Dr. Richard Frey, CSU associate director of bands, recommended it last fall, but seeing how his face lit up as he reflected on his experience, it’s clear he made the right choice!
Founded in 1997, the World Youth Wind Orchestra Project (WYWOP) is an “intense musical week” for high school age to young adult musicians, and a cornerstone of the MidEurope Festival. “[It’s] a very special wind ensemble that pulls performers from all parts of the world,” described conductor Dr. Kevin Sedatole, who is director of bands, professor of music, and chair of the conducting area at the Michigan State University College of Music. “Spencer was part of a fairly large United States presence in the group.”
Spencer found out in mid-April that his application had been accepted and he spent much of June rehearsing the music on his own. Although the CSU junior went to Ireland with the Marching Band in 2013, it was his first time traveling alone and he was understandably nerve wracked, arriving in Schladming on July 6 and jumping right into rehearsals. “I didn’t know anyone and was the only student from Colorado,” he said. “But everyone was so welcoming and friendly.”
With the majority of members coming from Austria, Germany, and America, rounded out by students from Australia, Japan, Spain, and Canada, along with Austrian and American conductors, Spencer was pleasantly surprised that musically, communication wasn’t an issue. “The main difference was the tuning pitch of A=442 instead of 440, so the pitch is higher,” he explained. “Other than that, it was easy to go into rehearsals.”
Dr. Sedatole agreed. “I watched Spencer interact with his new found colleagues in the percussion section. You could tell from the very beginning that even though there might be a verbal language barrier that there was definitely not a musical language barrier.”
Within the varied repertoire, which was performed at the festival’s final concert, Spencer’s favorite piece was Steven Bryant’s concerto for alto saxophone, with Dr. Joseph Lulloff, professor of saxophone at the Michigan State University College of Music, as the soloist. “It was cool to play Bryant’s music because he was there and his wife Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant, (visiting assistant professor of the practice of music at Duke University) was the conductor, so they knew exactly how they wanted the music to sound,” said Spencer. “Plus I’ve never seen anyone play like Dr. Lulloff does…unbelievable!”
As the week progressed, Spencer realized how much he was learning about conducting and rehearsing. “I didn’t expect this, but with five guest conductors it was remarkable to see all their techniques and working ways.”
Specifically, how they worked differently with the baton gave Spencer tools for the future. “I learned how to bring out sounds in the ensemble, you don’t tell the group, you need to show them,” he enthused. “I got something from each of them, and as an ed major, this was awesome!”
What came to the surface during my conversation with Spencer was how this experience circles back to his time at CSU. “I wouldn’t have appreciated all the conductors’ differences without looking at it through a music ed perspective,” mused Spencer. “I wouldn’t have noticed all the viewpoints if it hadn’t been for Dr. Frey and Dr. Erik Johnson, CSU assistant professor of music education encouraging and motivating me to want to be an educator.”
Spencer seemed to have gained clarity about his future teaching goals and is looking ahead to graduate school for conducting. “I made some really good friends in the span of one week, which is kind of crazy, but they had similar goals and I got along with them immediately.”
“It was fun to see him interact with a very international section,” remembered Sedatole. “Spencer was an integral part of this section.”
“If I can get the money, I will go back next year,” concluded Spencer. And from the sound of it, WYWOP would gladly have him back!
~ posted by Jennifer Clary