The conductor entered the stage, turning to an oboist for a tuning note. Once the tuning subsided, he composed himself and the room went silent. He lifted his arms, the ensemble took a collective breath, and on the downbeat, the tuba began to play.
On Sunday, the Columbia University Wind Ensemble held its annual Fall Concert in Roone Arledge Auditorium. Founded in the 1930s as the Columbia University Concert Band and revived in 1998, this student-run ensemble is Columbia’s only wind band. Once consisting of 15 players, the group has now grown to nearly 50 members.
In an interview with Spectator, clarinetist and Treasurer Emma Brody, BC ’20, and bass clarinetist and Vice President Madeleine Lemos, CC ’21, spoke about the group’s mission to create a welcoming environment for non-music majors who want to continue performing at Columbia.
“We’re really just a place for anybody who wants to play music to play music,” Brody said. “We think that it’s really beneficial that we’re not exclusive to music majors because I know a lot of more serious groups kind of seem that way.”
In addition to promoting inclusivity within the group, the ensemble tries to incorporate a diverse range of composers in its program. With the absence of strings, the ensemble has the ability to play a larger repertoire that showcases the sounds of wind instruments.
“It gives us a lot of flexibility in playing newer stuff and a wide range of living composers,” Lemos said. “Getting that inclusivity, diversity on our program itself instead of having to stick to more traditional guidelines.”
In addition to its usual concerts, the ensemble also takes part in a program called Musical Mentors Collaborative, a partnership with P.S. 125 that provides elementary students with free music lessons.
This year’s concert was led by conductor and musical director Jason Noble, TC ’12. Noble has been leading the ensemble since 2013 and also leads the wind ensemble at Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, New York.
Midway through the concert, Noble introduced the ensemble’s initiative to incorporate pieces by living composers, specifically female composers and composers of color, within its program. The initiative showcased pieces that are part of a traditional repertoire, such as Gustav Holst’s “First Suite in E-flat,” John Mackey’s contemporary work, “This Cruel Moon,” and Alice Gomez’s “La Madre Terra.”
Both Noble and Ruth Aguirre, a student at Teachers College and conductor of “La Madre Terra,” are part of the Institute for Composer Diversity, a New York-based institution that serves to promote underrepresented composers.
Overall, the ensemble aims to promote inclusivity within its group, diversify its program, and spread awareness of arts groups on campus.
“A lot of times, I think people don’t really pay attention to the performing arts groups and they don’t really receive a lot of attention,” Brody said. “So us playing is us contributing to that, really encouraging our audience and our members to see other performing arts groups at Columbia and really to get involved with the community.”
To close out the ensemble’s final performance of the year, they performed Travis Cross’s “And the grass sings in the meadows.”
“The world needs more feel-good stuff right now,” Noble added, before he conducted the ensemble in its last piece, a warm autumnal sound filling the auditorium.