Hepler conducts final wind symphony concert

The Allegheny College Wind Symphony played their final show with Professor of Music Lowell Hepler on May 8.

The Allegheny College Wind Symphony has been a part of Meadville since Carlton Woods started the ensemble in 1972, and has continued to provide a community for musicians and concerts for Meadville since then. The symphony and ensemble are open for audition to all Allegheny students, alumni, faculty and community members.
Professor of Music and Director of Bands Lowell Hepler directed his last concert on May 8 in the Shafer Auditorium. Hepler is retiring after 48 years of teaching music at Allegheny, entering the community when he was 23 years old for his background in piano and experience with bands.
“At the time, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it because I was in bands all through college,” Hepler said. “To be really honest with you, the band program became the last thing that I would ever want to give up because it gave me a chance to conduct and get to know people really well and grow it throughout the years.”
Hepler explained that despite the band being an afterthought, it ended up becoming his primary connection to the community.
“I guess it really goes to show that when we are young we can’t be closed off to other opportunities that present themselves because very often they are what really become essential for us,” Hepler said.
Because the symphony is open to all students regardless of major and minor, many students are able to be a part of the musical community at the college without having to pursue a degree in music.
Mollie Cochran, ’24, plays the flute in the Wind Symphony. She has been in the symphony since her first year and is majoring in biology and minoring in psychology.
“We had some challenges with everything happening with COVID, but Hepler is a really great conductor and director,” Cochran said. “It was really hard at first because I hadn’t played with an ensemble, but I think that when you play in an ensemble like that where everybody truly wants to be there there is a lot to learn from playing together instead of playing individually.”
Cochran explained that the ensemble frequently refers to themselves as a family, which has allowed them to play well together and listen to each other.
Since the symphony is open to everyone, students who participate in it have had unique learning experiences.
“We have some alumni and (family),” Cochran said. “There’s such a learning experience that goes along with that. I know that we have a flute player with us who has had a lot more experience than we do and she has been able to teach us so much and it has just been a different kind of dynamic when it is not just students playing.”
Lynnsey Winchell, ’22, recounted how she first became a part of the symphony when she was a first-year student.
“I came to college thinking that I wasn’t going to play because I didn’t think I was good enough and because I thought I had too much going on,” Winchell said. “I had met a kid that was in the symphony at the time and he encouraged me to come and meet (Hepler) and before I knew it I had an email from (Hepler) telling me to check it out. And the rest is history.”
In order for the symphony to have a big concert each semester, members make a large time commitment. According to Winchell, members play together three times a week during lunch for an hour. The Wind Symphony is one of the biggest music groups in the college next to the Civic Symphony. The Civic Symphony includes string instruments such as the violin.
“We banter back and forth, we tell stories and it really makes it a community as well as a family,” Winchell said.