Virginia Tech Philharmonic curates a space of belonging for student musicians from diverse majors
The resident symphony orchestra, the Virginia Tech Philharmonic, currently meets three times per week in order to prepare for the upcoming performance at the Moss Arts Center on Feb. 24. The concert will honor and feature the two students who won the Virginia Tech Soloist Competition earlier this academic year.
The first winner, Mary Wright, will sing two arias from Rossini's operas, “L'Italiana in Algeri” and “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” The first movement of E. Séjourné’s “Concerto for Marimba and Strings” will be performed by winner Miranda Hughes. The concert also will feature the world premiere of a new work “Three Love Letters,” written by California-based composer Adam Hochstatter. The piece was commissioned by Mathias Elmer, the Virginia Tech Philharmonic's conductor.
The Philharmonic is one of several large music ensembles on campus with more than 60 members, comprised of music majors and non-majors. Auditions for the orchestra occur at the beginning of each academic year and are open to every Virginia Tech student as a one-credit class.
“Music brings together people that wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to meet," said Madeline Deck, a senior civil engineering major and violin player. "Rehearsals with the Virginia Tech Philharmonic are the exclusive time I spend with non-engineering students. … In a world that is growing increasingly more competitive, it is nice to spend time in the VT Philharmonic and work collaboratively to create something beautiful as a group. As a non-music major, I was overjoyed to be able to participate in such an exceptional group throughout my four years at Virginia Tech. It is a nice break from the technical work of my degree.”
Other students share Deck’s sentiment of finding belonging in the orchestra and have bonded over Elmer’s inclusive teaching style. “I love the process and hearing how the orchestra grows, not only musically, but also closer together as a team. VT Philharmonic is a second family to me,” said music performance and French double major Jada Braxton.
Senior music education and cello performance double major Josie Chase said, “I love the repertoire that Dr. Elmer picks for each concert. It's so diverse in styles, time periods, and instrumentation.”
“Dr. Elmer is not only an amazing educator but an amazing mentor," said Kieran Casey, music education and composition major. "His engagement with his students, passion for music, and love for the arts makes him the best director I have ever had.”
The students also shared that they are looking forward to supporting fellow Philharmonic musicians and Soloist Competition winners Wright and Hughes at the upcoming Feb. 24 concert. Wright is a native of Northern Virginia and is completing a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She is also a young artist at Opera Roanoke and a soloist at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke. Hughes is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in percussion performance. She is an active soloist, chamber musician, and educator specializing in classical and contemporary genres and also has studied West African hand drumming, singing, and dancing.
The Virginia Tech Philharmonic is also performing the timely, relevant "Symphony No. 5 in D minor, op.47" by Dmitri Shostakovich. In the 1930s, when he wrote the piece, the Soviet Union was under Stalin’s control; this work in particular was banned. Elmer said he is “extremely excited to perform a true masterpiece and major piece of the orchestral world. This symphony is very demanding, and I'm looking forward to the rehearsal process as well as the performance during our concert. This event is not to be missed.”
Deck added, “The exalted work is beautiful and incredibly relevant in our current political circumstances.”
The performance is Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Anne and Ellen Fife theatre at the Moss Arts Center. Tickets are $15 general/$12 senior/$10 student with free online streaming via YouTube.
Ticket information is available online, or by calling the Moss Arts Center at 540-231-5300.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, email Susan Sanders or call 540-231-5200 during regular business hours prior to the event.
Visitors to the Blacksburg campus Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. will need to display a parking permit, utilize the ParkMobile app, pay the daily charge for a pass, or pay for parking using an hourly meter. A range of parking options can be found online.
Written by Liz Gray, an M.F.A. candidate in the School of Performing Arts’ Arts leadership program