The Sounds of Meadville

Wind Symphony prepares for fall concert

The Wind Symphony is Allegheny College’s flagship instrumental ensemble, featuring a roster of 82 members, three music faculty and three administrative faculty. Among the many ensembles covered in previous issues of Sounds of Meadville, Wind Symphony is most closely associated with the colloquial band.

At the head of the vessel is Lowell Hepler, professor of music and director of bands and music department chair. Hepler is the second longest standing professor at Allegheny, beginning his 42nd year at the school. With that many years of teaching under his belt, Hepler has acquired a wide variety of musical knowledge.

“This is not a music conservatory, yet we maintain a high standard of playing,” said Hepler.

At music conservatories and schools with large band programs musicians have to audition before entering the school said Hepler. Hepler makes a clear point that his mission is to the college as a whole, rather than the gifted few. The Wind Symphony requires an audition, but Hepler says that the purpose of the audition is never to keep people out, but to place people correctly.

Melissa Ruszczyk, ’17, plays clarinet in the Wind Symphony and is a double major in music and biology.

“I entered as a poster child for undecided,” said Ruszczyk.

Ruszczyk explored her options with pre-health and minoring in music, but the encouragement and warmth from the music department led her to double major.

“The music department is ready to embrace you whether you know you need it or not,” said Ruszczyk. “It’s less intimidating than people think.”

Emerald Collie, ’16, has been playing the saxophone since 6th grade, but Collie did not join the Wind Symphony until the spring semester of her junior year. Collie said that she wishes that she had joined sooner, citing that when she was a freshman she wanted to try new things.

“I definitely felt intimidated, but then I started talking to professor [Julie] Hepler and she made me feel comfortable joining the band,” said Collie.

Hepler says that he is always proud and excited for his students, but much of his pride comes from any student who carry their musical abilities with them throughout their lives. The goal here is to educate for life, not for a vocation Hepler points out.

“We want everyone to meet their potential,” said Hepler. “Not everyone in the band wants to be a professional musician. A vast majority are not even music majors.”

Hepler has to reconcile this fact every semester when he picks the repertoire for the concert. Choosing music is difficult because it requires a command of the literature, which spans centuries, as well as the students said Hepler.

Ron Stitt, adjunct faculty member, teaches trombone lessons as well as participates in the Wind Symphony. Hepler and Stitt have a long-standing relationship that extends to the Erie Philharmonic where they were both members.

Stitt began teaching at Allegheny in 1988 but was not a stranger to the classroom as he directed the band at Fort LeBouf High School for 34 years prior. After all this time Stitt is still playing with school bands.

“I get to work with eager students who want to be there,” said Stitt.

Many large music programs collect fees for participating in an ensemble, but Stitt is glad that Allegheny can offer its music ensembles to interested and committed students free of charge.

Stitt recently completed a march entitled “Crimson, Blue, and White” dedicated to Fort LeBouf High School, paying homage to the school colors as well as the alma mater. The march will be played in the Wind Symphony concert and will be conducted by Stitt.

The Wind Symphony will be performing its fall concert on Sunday, Nov. 22 in Shafer Auditorium at 3:15 p.m. The group will be pooling from a wide spread of music including a trumpet trio featuring trumpet soloists Kevin Simpson, ’17, Will Hawkins, ’17, and Jake Patterson, ’17, a traditional Holst suite in F-major and much more.