By Emma Russell
Student Life Editor
Students looking for a way to fulfill their Fine Arts requirements should consider taking an ensemble music course.
According to the ensembles tab on the Department of Music’s page of the Washington College website, “ensembles are a great way for students of all majors to make music with others. From Musical Theater to the Symphonic Band, Orchestra to Steel Band. No matter your level of experience or musical interests, we have a place for you to perform.”
Senior Sarah Bowden has been part of the large ensemble course Symphonic Band as a percussion player for the entirety of her time here at WC.
Symphonic Band was taught by former lecturer in music Keith Warton but is now taught by lead Associate Professor of Music Dr. Jon McCollum.
Bowden said she started playing percussion when she was in middle school and has “been part of some music ensemble ever since.”
According to Bowden “[The class is] performance-based. We’ll get three pieces maybe, and all of our class meetings are rehearsals. Of course, we’re expected to practice outside of rehearsal.”
Bowden said that last semester when everyone was virtual, students would record their parts and Dr. McCollum would work to piece all the instruments together.
“When we had virtual rehearsals, we would all mute ourselves so everyone could practice, so I never knew what everyone else sounded like,” she said.
With students back on campus, Symphonic Band has been able to resume with some in-person rehearsals.
“I clearly remember our first in-person rehearsal [upon returning to campus.] We decided to work on the song we had been working on last semester and it was my first-time hearing everyone play the song, and it just brought me so much joy,” she said.
“It was just kind of a nice way to decompress a little because sometimes it can be stressful being in 4-credit classes and trying to do all these assignments but with band, it’s just ‘you show up, you play, you get an A.’ It was just a nice way to do what I love and keep that alive,” Bowden said.
Senior Will Reid is currently taking Percussion Ensemble — taught by lecturer in music Eric Plewinski — and has been in the course for the entirety of the time he’s been at WC.
“I went into it because last time I had learned to play percussion and had played with a group of people was in 8th grade, I didn’t have anything in my high school if I wanted to get more into it,” Reid said.
“During my time here I got really into mallet instruments, so like vibraphone, xylophone, bells, marimbas, that sort of thing. That’s really fun because it was easy for me to learn because it’s just like a piano, you’re only hitting notes with a mallet instead of your hands,” he said.
According to Reid last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic caused classes to be taught virtually they did written assignments rather than play instruments, so students could still meet their grade requirements for the course, but things changed in the fall.
“[Plewinski] drove all the students instruments to use, to our houses, to use. So, I had a whole-ass vibraphone in my living room that I would play for lessons and then I would go down to my basement for class to play my snare drum,” Reid said. “[Plewinski] gave us a field recorder, so we could record the sound, then video ourselves playing then he would match them up by syncing up our claps and stuff and that’s how we got the percussion ensemble concert on YouTube, which was pretty fun, pretty wild.”
Reid has also been a part of Chorus and Musical Theater Production both taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Ernest Green.
In Musical Theatre Production students can receive a fine arts credit for the work they put into the Department of Music’s musical productions, according to the ensembles tab.
All students are welcome to take Chorus, which “focuses on a mixture of classic choral repertoire, opera and operetta choruses, Broadway, pop, and World Music,” according to the ensembles tab.
Other ensemble courses include String Orchestra, Japanese Music Ensemble, Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Jazz Music Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Rock Ensemble, and Brass and Woodwind Chamber Ensemble.
According to Bowden, all students should consider taking a music ensemble course, “It’s just nice to be part of something and make beautiful music together.”
“You don’t have to be a music major to play an instrument,” Reid said.
Neither Bowden nor Reid are music majors or minors; these courses are open for all WC students.
To learn more about the ensemble courses offered at WC, check out the ensemble tab on the Department of Music’s page on the WC website.