This past Tuesday, Nov. 29, the New Paltz symphonic band performed at the college’s Studley Theatre. The concert, conducted by band director Adam Fontana, was a collection of songs and dance-like music for wind and percussion instruments. The fifth piece of the concert, “Alegre” by Tania Leon, was conducted by student Aleks Pilmanis. He is a New York-based composer and performer who currently studies with Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory, Dr. Phyllis Chen at New Paltz.
An array of pieces was included in Fontana’s concert, ranging from wartime marches like Gustav Holst’s “First Suite in E flat for Military Band” to celebratory works examining the bravery of trans women like in Omar Thomas’ “A Mother of a Revolution!” The longest piece was “Courtly Airs and Dances,” composed by classical music enthusiast Ron Nelson. This six-movement piece is a Renaissance dance suite depicting five European countries. The whimsical nature of the song perfectly encapsulated the “eclectic and exciting concert” feel the program hoped to illustrate. Overall, the concert was a mashup of more modern pieces, with most being 21st century compositions. The oldest piece featured was Holst’s March, which was either produced in 1911 or 1912.
Preparing for the concert was undoubtedly a process for the symphonic band. At the start of the semester, the ensemble needed to learn how to play with one another and how to adapt to an individual performer’s strengths and weaknesses. Fontana then began distributing pieces for the concert, fixing any noticeable mistakes the ensemble might have encountered as they played through each song. As the semester progressed, Fontana would finetune more subtle errors the entire ensemble or individual instrument groups made in sections of given pieces.
Joseph Rosploch, a first-year adolescent education major with a concentration in English, is one of three tubas who performed for Fontana’s symphonic band. He has played the low brass instrument for eight years and has found being in a college ensemble to be exceptionally more nerve-racking than in a middle school or high school band. When talking to The Oracle, Rosploch commented that one of the key reasons playing in a college ensemble is so anxiety-inducing is because he is “not only performing for the community, but also playing for people who paid to be there.” While New Paltz students get to see every concert series performance for free, those from outside the area must pay a general admission fee of $10. During Rosploch’s middle school and high school tenures, ensemble performances were free of charge for all guests. Additionally, most concertgoers were from his community who came to support their family members or friends. In stark contrast, college concert series performances are open to a wider audience from a greater regional diversity, making Rosploch feel more obligated to put 100% effort into his performance.
The program is part of the college’s fall 2022 concert series, an annual collection of distinct musical performances. The program highlights various genres of music found around the world; for instance, the next concert, scheduled for today, Thursday, Dec. 1, spotlights Gamelan pieces, which utilizes complex percussion instruments found predominantly in Indonesia. The full schedule for the semester’s remaining shows and the digital program highlighting the pieces and instrumentalists involved in the symphonic band concert can be found on the New Paltz School of Fine and Performing Arts website.