Music ensemble programs expand at UCCS

Kate Marlett 

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     Ensembles at UCCS include string orchestras, jazz ensembles and choral music groups who perform as part of the music honors ensembles program through VAPA.  

     Glen Whitehead has been at UCCS since 2000 and became the music program director in 2006. Whitehead spoke about the ensembles featured at the Ent Center as well as new directions in the music department.  

     The UCCS Symphony Orchestra is a new ensemble created in response to the effects of the pandemic. Whitehead started the new orchestra in order to build a bigger community for instrumental music.  

     “We just feel that it’s a really big need for an ensemble like that and [to have] more instrumental ensembles. We’re really striving to build instrumental music on this campus and choral music equally,” he said. 

      Some ensembles require performers to have a major in music to create a more specialized community. Other ensembles allow any student to join as a way to serve the student body on campus. 

     “Not all ensembles are required to have an audition or require auditions. The orchestra does, the jazz ensemble does, but the University Choir, pretty much anybody can join,” Whitehead said. 

     The UCCS Music Program offers a variety of ensembles including Chamber Singers and Players, Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and Creative Music Ensemble.  

     New additions to the array of ensembles include Balinese Gamelan Ensemble and the African Drum and Dance Ensemble. The UCCS Symphony Orchestra features students, alumni, faculty and staff as performers.  

     “The ensembles in a semester will do one or two performances a semester or towards the end of a semester,” Whitehead said. “Some of them have more performances than that and are a little bit more flexible.” 

     For students that have previous music experience, the music program allows them to rekindle their passion for performing. Whitehead said that one of the visions of the music department is “to build more support for the Music Program in what we call ‘lifelong musicianship.’”  

     Lifelong musicianship is the cultivation of musical communities by students who have been involved in ensembles before. Some of these students may have had experience as part of a high school band or orchestra. Other students may have experience in a jazz band or an extracurricular ensemble.  

     These students, according to Whitehead, usually do not have the recourses or motivation to continue in their musical career. It is a goal of the music department on campus to get these students involved with music once more.  

     The music department has been working on the creation of new music majors.  

     “We have a BA in music going through right now that should start next fall. That’s gone through the College of Letters Arts and Sciences and fully approved and voted on. Now it goes to the campus,” Whitehead said. 

     Another large project that the music department is working on is a new music education degree that will be the first cross-college degree. The goal of this program is to bring in a large amount of music students as well as foster a unified music community between colleges.  

     However, this project of creating a large community of music students across colleges is not without challenge. Whitehead said, “The structure of each college is really different; they have different general ed requirements, faculty and staff structures. But there’s just really good momentum and buy-in and collaborative spirit going with that idea.” 

     UCCS students have free admission to ensemble performances. General admission is $7 and the price for senior tickets is $5.  

     The Jazz Ensemble’s performance will be on Tuesday, Nov. 16, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater. 

     The University Choir will have its next performance on Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Chapmen Recital Hall.  

     Symphony 21: UCCS Symphony Orchestra, directed by Whitehead, will perform on Friday, Nov. 20 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Shockley-Zalabak Theater. 

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