MSU Wind Symphony, Taking Center Stage

Carnegie performance provides experience of a lifetime for MSU students.

It’s a place most musicians only dream of playing. And for student musicians at Michigan State University, that dream came true when the MSU Wind Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall.

Members of MSU's public relations department joined the ensemble to document the journey, ranging from preparation, to performance, to all the steps along the way. Watch MSU’s video below or explore the Taking Center Stage story in MSU Today.

“It’s something a lot of us spend our entire life thinking of and may never have the opportunity,” says Wesley Warnhoff, an MSU doctoral student and principal clarinetist. “To get that chance at such a young age was very exciting.”

In late February 2014, the 70-member symphony traveled to New York’s Carnegie Hall to perform three contemporary classical works before a packed audience. The trip was not only a first for students, it was a first for any MSU band or orchestra to appear on the revered world stage. And it was a trip made possible by the generosity of donors and supporters of the MSU College of Music, many of whom attended, including MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

“The opportunity for our students to perform the works of one of America’s leading composers in this iconic hall, was an experience of a lifetime,” says James Forger, dean of the MSU College of Music. “Carnegie Hall is one of the pinnacle places for classical musicians, and we thank all our donors and supporters who made it possible.”

MSU Director of Bands Dr. Kevin Sedatole seconded Forger’s sentiments about the students' trip to Carnegie. Since coming to MSU nearly a decade ago, Sedatole has charted a path to increasingly high levels of performance for the Wind Symphony, including national conventions, clinics and prestigious competitions. Throughout it all, Carnegie Hall remained top-of-mind, and persistence paid off.

“It’s such a standard bearer to play at Carnegie,” says Sedatole, who is also the chair of the conducting area. “And to play our own concert… it was awesome.”

As a champion for new repertoire, the Wind Symphony selected three pieces for the Carnegie appearance, including “Circus Maximus” by Pulitzer-prize winning composer John Corigliano. The concert opened with “Traveler” by MSU alumnus David Maslanka, followed by Corigliano's “Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan,” and concluded with "Circus Maximus," marking the 10th anniversary of the stunning and epic work.

The receptive audience, says both Sedatole and Warnhoff, added to the night’s energy, particularly since it included MSU patrons and John Corigliano, himself.

The composer, Warnhoff says, had met with the MSU Wind Symphony on several occasions at MSU, and had joined the students on a dinner cruise the night before the New York performance.

“It was neat to hear about how he goes about writing his music and what he thinks of it,” says Warnhoff. “It made us all take a little extra care and pay extra special attention to the details.”

While he says he can’t speak for all his co-performers, Warnhoff did say he shared in the collective feeling of “butterflies.”

“It was a rush to play there,” he says. “The audience just loved the piece. And when we wrapped it all up with the MSU fight song, everyone went absolutely crazy.”

Sedatole seconds that it was the experience of a lifetime.

“I soaked it all in too,” says Sedatole, remembering how he stood on his podium and looked out at the crowd for a very long time. “It was a very special night for our students, and for some very special and important people in the audience, too.”

Photos and video by G.L. Kohuth, Michigan State University

Topics filed under:

Share this: