Tag Archives: music

Born for the Piano: An interview with resident artist Asher Raboy

By Becky St. Clair

Before joining the PUC faculty over a decade ago, he spent 20 years as music director of the Napa Valley Symphony. Today, as acting chair, he spends most of his time doing what department chairs do: Paperwork, teaching classes, advising students, paperwork, attending meetings, catching up with students and colleagues, and more paperwork. Somewhere in there, he fits in directing the college’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble and playing trombone in the orchestra. As a brilliant composer and a natural performer, Raboy is a joy to talk with and a hoot to watch onstage.

Today (literally), we caught him between virtual classes and a walk with his dog, and he told us some very entertaining (and true!) stories.

What was the first-ever piece you performed on stage, and how old were you?

 You forget that I am very, very old and can’t remember that far back. I started studying piano when I was five, so I certainly played in recitals before grade school. I remember playing in a trio with my brothers on the radio when I was in third grade, but I’ll be darned if I have any idea what the piece was. I conducted a summer festival band when I was in sixth grade (again, no idea of the piece). As for paying work, that came a little later. I was the music director and synth player for Godspell at age seventeen; that was probably the first.

Who would you name as one of your favorite composers, and what draws you to them? 

I was literally raised on Beethoven. My parents got me the recording and orchestra score to Beethoven’s seventh symphony when I was in third grade. I still love the music of that madman, but I can’t claim to completely understand it, even after all these years.

It was Puccini’s La Bohème that really reached me. I understood music intellectually and as a set of skills to master, but I really didn’t get the power of music, the emotional punch that it contains until I saw a production of that opera and was surprised to find tears in my eyes and my heart full. I have loved Puccini ever since. He taught me the real meaning of music.

Your career has allowed you to “rub elbows,” as they say, with some famous people. Who are some of those you’ve personally met?

 I’ve been very lucky in my performing career that I have gotten to work with some very big names. (This is not because I’m great, it’s simply the job. The Napa Valley Symphony hired well-known artists and it was my job to conduct the orchestra.) In the pops world, I worked with Wynona, Glen Campbell, Mel Torme, Pink Martini (all except Pink Martini are way before your time…). In the classical world, I’ve met Yo-Yo Ma, worked with André Watts, Sir James Galway, and so on. Maybe not household names, but in the music world, these guys are at the top.

But my favorite was Branford Marsalis, the saxophone player who used to conduct the Tonight Show band. He played three concertos with us, and then went out to a club to play jazz with a friend of his father’s. He was kind (although he wanted to put forward a rough edge), gifted, fun, spirited; we spent two days together and those are some of my fondest memories.

Let’s talk composing. How did you become interested in that aspect of creating music?

This is a dumb story, but it is 100 percent true. When I was in junior high school, Masterpiece Theater ran a limited series called “The Strauss Family.” Everybody was so excited because it was a story about musicians. I was a contrarian, so I hated the series. I thought it was just a soap opera, and besides, anyone can write waltzes. To prove it, I went to the piano in my living room and wrote one.

Before I continue, let me just say that Johann Strauss Jr. is a musical genius. Don’t judge me by my adolescence.

Nonetheless, my waltz turned out pretty good. My piano teacher asked for two more pieces so that three of my siblings could play a piece of mine in recital. I wrote for my family, trying to capture their personalities in each piece. It was a fun challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

IMG_0816

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing an opera. It is the story of a woman who has power, prestige, pleasure but gets dissatisfied. She looks for something more. The point of the opera is not her conclusions, but her search. It mirrors my own journeys, and it is time for me to write a piece that is truly personal. It is loosely based on some very old stories, but it has been updated. I’m writing both the libretto and the music.

I doubt it will ever be performed. I’m not convinced that many opera companies will survive our time of shelter in place. it’s an expensive art form and needs large groups to congregate to make it successful. Still, I feel I need to write it, and hopefully, some excerpts will bring people pleasure, solace, or at least thoughtfulness in the future.

If someone were to tell you the next instrument you touched would be the only one you could play for the rest of your life (and that you’d instantly become a master at it), which one would you choose, and why?

It would be my own instrument, the piano. I want to be able to play everything: bass, chords, and melody. I want to be able to work alone or with a group. I want to be able to be expressive and shape a phrase like a singer would. I was born for the piano, and I’ll stay with it. I’m loyal like a dog.

When we say “music department” here at PUC, we think classical, church, tradition. Why is it important to remember there are other genres and styles of music out there?

First, let’s look at the music of Europe and the Americas. What we call “classical music” wasn’t always classical music. Opera was a popular art form the way musicals are today. Mozart was a pop composer (although for a pretty wealthy class of people) and the romantics made their money on ticket sales, just as rock musicians do in our time. The whole concept of “classical music” is a fairly modern creation.

The energy in music has always rested in songs written for people, not for academics. This is true of the church music of the thirteenth century or the string quartets of the eighteenth. In our time, Paul McCartney is as good a songwriter (in my opinion) as Schubert. Movies are the new operas, and John Williams may be as important as Verdi. This “non-classical” music is the expression of our time, and we should value it. There is no room for snobbery.

Then, go to Asia (just as one example). There are long musical traditions in China, India, Japan, and so on. There is no reason to assume that these traditions are any less powerful or enduring than our Western music. Think of India. We don’t have to sit cross-legged listening to ragas to enjoy this music. Bollywood is full of it. And it is wonderful.

How are you taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 crisis?

I am lucky. I have a dog, enough space in my house, food in my fridge, a large family I love, and a reclusive personality. Still, this isolation is a killer. Here’s what I do: I Zoom my family three or four times a week. My wife, daughter, and I cook together even though we are almost 3000 miles apart. I walk the Back 40, the front forty and every other forty with my dog. I exercise, I get up early, and have created a routine. I work, I eat, I listen to music. And I heartily enjoy my conversations with my students and my colleagues. For those of you who are suffering, I am thinking of you. This can be really, really hard.

How has your job/life changed since March 2020?

I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle. I went back East for a family affair. My wife and daughter stayed for a while and I flew home for concerts at PUC and elsewhere. I got the flu (blame it on the airplane. Why not?) and when I got out of bed, my nuclear family was trapped in North Carolina, students had been sent home, and no one was meeting. My hair was already too long, and my hairdresser was closed. My tuxedo was lying dirty on my dresser and my dry cleaner was closed. I gave concerts for a living, now I couldn’t gather to make music, hear music, or go to a movie. My dog needed walking and feeding, and I was his sole caregiver. Wow. But we can get used to anything. At least I have a family who loves me, a safe place to live, and open space. We all have a right to complain, but I am one of the very lucky ones. Yes, it feels like I woke up and I’m still in a dream. But every day I count my blessings. And part of those blessings are all the people who keep us safe, healthy, and supplied. All at personal risk. Thank you all!

Besides music, what are some of your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working or composing or practicing?

I love to cook. I hate to do dishes, so I don’t cook as much as I would like, but I truly love it. I would call golf a hobby, but it is more of an addiction. And I’m really bad at it. (But so is everyone else–don’t believe the stories you hear.) I love chess but find chess puzzles better than chess games (because they are shorter). Still, I’ll play with anyone who wants to! I read and belong to a book club. I hike; in slow motion when my dog is there, a little faster but not by much when I’m alone. And, when there are sports, I follow the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. No wonder I don’t practice as much as I should.

Okay, we have to ask about the dog, because it seems like he’s an important part of your life. Introduce us!

Bowie, named for David Bowie, is an old guy. My daughter thinks he’s 14, but I’m convinced he’s 12 because I choose to. He is two dogs long, half a dog high, with twisted legs that probably come from a basset hound, although perhaps a dachshund. He’s got a normal dog face like a Labrador, a narrow ruff (that shoots up at the sight of huskies) like a Ridgeback, and a loose neck like a Shar-Pei. To me, he is simply a loving dog, a lap dog, a stubborn dog, and truly a boy’s best friend.

IMG_0819

If you could swap places with Bowie, would you?

No, I wouldn’t trade places. He’s very happy and well cared for, and nothing troubles him except when he wants to go to the Back 40 and I am meeting with students.

But here’s the thing. I’ve always loved challenges. I can’t get out of bed if there isn’t a mountain to climb or something to conquer. That’s not a good thing, but it’s how I’m built, and it’s the way I’ve been since I was a little kid. Bowie is happy because there is nothing he has to accomplish. I am happy because there is always something that can be accomplished. We each have the life that fits our personality and scrapes along together very well.

 

Peace in the Storm

By: Becky St. Clair

Fear. Anxiety. Confusion. Lack of assurance.

All of these feelings are normal and understandable in the unfamiliar world in which we now find ourselves. As a Christian college, PUC supports faith in what never fails: Christ. And as a department of music, we also believe in the calming, reassuring, healing power of God’s gift of music.

Whether it’s COVID-19 or a significant change in your personal life, adapting to a new normal can be challenging at best. This month, our faculty share their perspectives on the importance of music in situations like this.

Asher Raboy

Resident Artist, Acting Chair, Symphonic Winds Ensemble Director

English is a great language for talking about concrete things. Trees and cars and houses and rocks are all well served by our local tongue. But abstract concepts, like hope, love, and faith are much better voiced in the language of music. 

For me, when I need a shot of faith, I turn to J.S. Bach (the Magnificat is my go-to piece).  Others may find the same message in Christian contemporary music. For hope, the Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky/Ravel) always thrills me. For love, a melody from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake or maybe a Schubert song will do, or maybe you would prefer Here, There, and Everywhere by The Beatles. In any event, let’s buoy our spirits by listening to the music that feeds our better angels.

Jenelle Westerbeck Anderson

Choir & Vox Pro Musica Director

It may seem rather silly writing about how music can positively impact our feelings, energy, creativity, etc. because it seems so self-evident to many, including me. But it is true that different music will speak to various individuals in varying ways. To that end, here are some annotated links to choral music that move me, sounds exciting and creates energy so I can’t sit still. I will end with a Sacred Harp singing example that reminds me of the power of shared music-making that isn’t about performance, but about sharing the experience of singing together.

What If by Eric Whitacre and arranged by the conductor of this wonderful choir. It comes from an opera so it was originally sung by solo voices. But in a choral setting, I love the unique way the voices are used. It’s almost pointillistic (if that’s a word). I also love the combination of percussion instruments and voices.

Unclouded Day arranged by Shawn Kirchner and sung by the same choir as above. I love folk music and this is a wonderful sacred folk song arranged for choir.

The Battle of Jericho, a traditional spiritual arranged by Moses Hogan. This video is to enjoy an animated, fun conductor and singers who are totally committed to their singing and the message of the song. There may be cleaner, “better” recordings out there of this famous piece, but probably not one more fun.

Ndikhokele Bawo (text based on Psalm 23) is a South African traditional song arranged by Michael Barrett (who is conducting). I’ve listened to this piece often this year since we performed it. But I like how this choir feels it and sings from the heart.

Antioch (I Know That My Redeemer Lives) from The Sacred Harp. This video isn’t about the beauty of the sound. In fact, you need to watch to the end and really watch the leader. In this style of singing, everyone sits in a square and different people lead each song. The singing is not for performance at all … just to sing together. The best sound is in the middle of that square and it is fun to watch this rather reserved man get taken by the experience. FYI – this is a uniquely North American style of folk music that is here sung by a group in Ireland.  

Rachelle Berthelsen Davis

Orchestra Director

Music has been therapy for me for longer than I want to admit. Its power to distract my mind from stress and give me something constructive to focus on is a given in my experience. Certain songs have had the power to lift my spirits and help me re-engage with the world with a more positive spirit and I have a playlist that I’ve often used when my stress level is high and my courage low. 

Regularly on my rough-day-therapy playlist are Mahler’s Symphony 8 (especially the opening and closing sections: 1.1 Veni, Creator Spiritus and 2.12 Alles Vergangliche); His Eye Is On The Sparrow by either Whitney Houston or Eclipse 6–each recording is very different; Spark of Creation by Nikki Renee Daniels; Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee by Glad; Brave by Sara Bareilles; This is Me and From Now On from The Greatest Showman; Mendelssohn’s String Octet (the first movement is my favorite); Brahms’ Symphony 3; Mendelssohn’s Symphony 5, Reformation; Bruch’s Romance for Viola and Orchestra; the list goes on. (And if you want angry music, I’ve got that too.)

 

Creative Outlets: An Interview With Student Musician Alexis Keller

Becky St. Clair

Hailing from Loomis, California (near Sacramento), Alexis Keller is a nursing major in her junior year who also happens to be both a fabulous violinist and a successful competitive water-skier. Not only is she a first violinist in the PUC Orchestra, but she plays second violin in the college’s string quartet as well. 

Alexis was gracious enough to share her passion and insights with us so we could share them with you. Without further ado, meet Alexis!

When did you start playing the violin?

I started playing the violin when I was three years old. Interestingly enough, the school I went to at the time required everyone to learn how to play the violin. After the violin teacher left the school, my mom, who is also a violinist, continued to practice with me at home and took me to private violin lessons.

What kept you interested in that particular instrument?

I have continued to be interested in and play the violin because I love the medium of emotional expression it creates, the ability to connect with others through the language of music, and the opportunity to worship God through music. Also, in my unbiased opinion, the violin is one of the most beautiful-sounding instruments and truly emulates the human voice.

Because of my experiences playing the violin, I have had opportunities to connect with lifelong friends, perform famous orchestra pieces, and play in performances around the world.

Aside from learning the violin, tell us about your experience with music as a young person.

Music was a big part of my life growing up. From as early on as I can remember, I was brought along to my mom’s orchestra dress rehearsals and concerts. I grew up listening to the orchestral works of Beethoven, Dvořák, Mahler, and Haydn (to name a few), both at my mom’s orchestra concerts and on the radio station when my parents drove me home from school. At the age of seven, I joined the Sacramento Youth Symphony and continued to perform in the orchestra for the next decade until I graduated high school at age 17.

IMG_0022

What makes music valuable to you here at PUC?

I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue making music at PUC because I am surrounded by a community of like-minded students and professors who share the same appreciation for music and passion to share that love of music with others. The environment PUC’s department of music has created pushes me to become a better musician and provides a creative outlet for a much-needed break from my studies!

What is your favorite piece of music you’ve ever performed, and why?

Definitely Accolay’s Concerto No. 1 in A Minor. This piece holds a special place in my heart because it was my first time soloing with an orchestra. It was a really great experience to go through the process of working with the orchestra and conductor to create the performance and then share that with my family and friends.

 How do you balance study and music?

Finding time to practice can be very difficult, which is one of the reasons I am so thankful to be in orchestra and quartet. Without these scheduled times, I am not sure I would so frequently play my violin. The best way to balance my busy schedule is to remind myself how important it is to take time for myself and what I love to do, like making music.

Okay, so heading a completely different direction, tell us about your other, non-musical hobby.

Competitive slalom waterskiing is definitely a less conventional sport, but one I absolutely love doing. I started skiing and competing around the age of seven after much convincing from my mom to enter a tournament. After that first tournament, I was hooked. I loved competing against both my personal score as well as the other girls in my division and the constant challenge to complete the next pass as the rope was shortened. I have won many local tournaments and received medals when I traveled throughout the U.S. for regional competitions.

IMG_3064_Original

What’s one class here at PUC in which you feel you’ve learned the most?

My nursing classes definitely feel like information overload a lot of the time, but they have all taught me so much. My favorite nursing class that I’ve taken was Nursing 4. It was a transition phase from the first year of nursing school to the second. I felt this class really helped me grow my critical thinking skills and prioritization of patient care.

What is something you want to accomplish before graduating?

I hope to make a positive impact on the PUC campus in a way that emulates God’s love. Additionally, my goal is to start working as a nurse while I get my BSN next year.

What is something you’ve already accomplished?

I am proud of getting into the nursing program, my work as a coordinator for the collegiate Sabbath school, and my opportunities to connect with students as an RA. I am glad to be involved in campus life because it has taught me skills of leadership, teamwork, and communication I will continue to develop after graduation and into adulthood.

IMG_0060_Original

What is your career goal, and why?

I want to get my nurse practitioner license. I chose nursing as a career path because I was drawn to the interactions with patients, the opportunity to better the physical and lifestyle health of individuals, and to be in a setting where I am constantly learning new things.

Okay, final and clearly most important question: Tra Vigne or Villa Corona?

I prefer Tra Vigne over Villa Corona. Though Tra Vigne is more expensive, it has a lot of vegan options such as the make your own pizza, Beyond Burger, and piadinas. 

 

 

 

What I Should Be Doing: An Interview with Music Alumnus Brennan Stokes

By Becky St. Clair

Brennan Stokes graduated from Pacific Union College in 2013 with a degree in piano performance. Having discovered a love for composition while studying with Professor Asher Raboy in the department of music, Stokes chose to continue his education at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, graduating in 2019 with a Master’s of Music in composition. Today he maintains a teaching studio in San Francisco’s Sunset District, passing on his love of music to the next generation of pianists. 

36636114_10156071716806281_3948195480516689920_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did you discover your love for music?

My parents are both musically inclined; they both sang in the church choir, Mom took piano lessons as a kid, and Dad plays the trumpet. They started me in piano lessons when I was in kindergarten, but there was always music in our house. I just took it and ran with it.

How did you settle on the piano?

It was the first instrument I learned, and it was a match from the start. I really liked it, and according to my teachers, I showed some promise for it, so I kept playing. Piano just made sense to me. 

How did composing become part of your musical life?

I always assumed I was going to be on one side of the page. I knew I was going to learn it, research it, analyze it, but I never considered creating it myself. When I found out I had to take a composition class for my degree, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but after our first assignment I realized how magical this process is and I fell in love with it. I continued to take classes with Professor Raboy even after the requirements were done. Creating new music was incredibly exciting for me. 

Tell us about your studio.

I teach 30-35 students a week, all between the ages of 5 and 13. My schedule is very flexible; since most kids are in school, I am relatively free during the day. I start teaching around 3 p.m. three days a week and teach until 8 p.m. I enjoy what I do. I consider myself very fortunate to be working in my field, teaching young musicians.

When you’re not teaching kids to create music, you create music yourself. Describe your approach to practicing.

Really, it starts slow. Paying attention to fingerings becomes essential; training my hands to do smaller tasks automatically. Then I focus on rhythm, hand by hand, figuring out what each part of the piece sounds like, then I put it all together. A valuable tool Dr. Wheeler gave me is reverse practice. If you only ever start your practice at the beginning of a piece, that’s always going to be the strong part. But if you start at the end, which is often the hardest part, you ensure the end is also strong. Then you feel even more comfortable with the piece. 

What is the difference between hearing a piece and playing it?

It’s a totally different experience to hear a piece than it is to see what the hands have to do to make the piece happen. You may feel like you know a piece after listening to it multiple times, but when you sit down to actually play it, you realize there are little rhythmic or harmonic nuances you didn’t realize were there. For example, the harmonies in some Chopin and Rachmaninoff pieces are super crunchy. It sounds like you’re playing something wrong and you check the notes three times, but that’s really what it is. You learn it, and suddenly it’s not crunchy anymore; it works. 

Aside from providing a way to make a living, how has studying music contributed positively to your life?

The last several years I’ve been getting into poetry and it has turned into a cycle of self-enrichment. I read poetry and feel like it was meant to be an art song, so I create some vocal music to go with the poem. Also, music allows me to meet really incredible people from all over the world. Music is the most universal thing; it doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak, you can bond over music. I love how it brings people together.

Who is your favorite composer to play, and why?

I’d say Chopin and this relatively new 20th century English composer named York Bowen. Chopin changed the game for solo piano. Yes, it’s technical, but once you get it in the fingers, it becomes so fluid and so natural. There’s playfulness, there’s sadness, and the composer’s intentions are really clear. Bowen utilizes really rich harmonies and has a bit of a jazzier feeling. I don’t think he’s well known but he’s written a ton of music; in particular, his preludes and ballads feel really nice to play.

Who is your favorite composer to listen to, and why?

There are two to whom I constantly return: Ravel and Beethoven. I have yet to encounter a piece by Ravel I’m not stunned by. He was a wizard of music and his chamber and orchestra music is stunning. Every instrument’s shape and technique is magic because he thought about more than the obvious ways to use the instrument. He utilizes every aspect of shading to get different tone colors and sounds.

Beethoven takes his time with his surprises. What he did to change musical form is a reminder that if you feel like doing something, you can. He’ll pull a fortissimo out of nowhere or move through his harmonies in an unexpected way. His sonatas are really rich; one movement is fiery and passionate then another is lyrical and serene. It’s incredible to realize you don’t always have to do the same thing all the time. He reminds me to come back to things that are good and innovate. I’m still looking back to these masters and finding ways to influence my music-making process. 

What is something you want to improve about your musicianship, and what are you currently doing to move in that direction?

Right now, rhythms and the finer points of notating what I want, maintaining my ear to get the intricate harmonies I love. I constantly have to work at how I put the complicated pieces together in the way I want them. During my first year of grad school, I took a musicianship class, and it was insane but incredible. Walking out of that class, my ear was so much sharper than it had been walking in. I still use techniques from that class to keep track of what has happened in a piece and what I’m doing next. 

What is the highlight of your career thus far?

Definitely my first composition recital in November 2017—the first time I heard one of my pieces performed. I had composed two songs for mezzo soprano, violin, cello, and piano, and I was terrified. I’m so used to being in the driver’s seat, and it was terrifying to be the composer just sitting in the audience watching four other people do my music and having zero control over what happened.

It was an immense learning curve handing my music over to other musicians; what I think works initially may not actually work after a second pair of eyes looks it over, especially when I’m composing for instruments that are not my primary. I also learned that how performers interpret music is also a part of the creative process.

A lot of people came up to me afterward and said it was amazing. It was a moment when all of my fears of not being good enough vanished. To be positively received by an audience was wonderful, but for my music to be positively received by the musicians playing it was even better. It was confirmation I was doing what I should be doing.

53341341_10156945202839178_3558854977147371520_o

If you could change one thing about society’s perception of classical music, what would it be?

I wish more people understood if you have the context of 20th century music, it will make more sense. The 20th century saw a lot of horrible things happen, and that’s reflected in dissonant 20th century music. It’s not necessarily pretty to listen to, but if you understand what they’re trying to say you don’t necessarily disagree with it. It takes a moment to transcend what you’re hearing and realize what the composer is saying; for example, a minor key with shrieking strings can express how a Polish composer feels about the Holocaust. If you understand what it is they were experiencing or reacting to, it contextualizes their voice and makes the music more accessible. 

How do you deal with performance anxiety?

I read a book on performance anxiety and the author said if you don’t get nervous, if you don’t feel anxious or get a boost in energy (whether positive or negative) before a performance, it’s apathy. You don’t really care. If you’re nervous before you perform, it means you want to do a good job and perform to the best of your ability to make sure what you put out there is wonderful. That really changed my way of thinking. I’ve learned to recognize what happens to me and where my nervousness affects me the most, then find a way to adjust. I try to fully relax my body and tell myself I’m going to give a wonderful performance. I reassure myself I’ve practiced, I’m ready, and I’m a good enough musician to find my way through the performance. This is music and music is fun, and sharing it with others should be enjoyable. That nervous feeling just means I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing something that matters to me. And that’s how it should be. 

 

Why You Should Join a Music Group at PUC

By Andrea James

PUC boasts many great music ensembles. We enjoy their performances every quarter, but most of us don’t participate in a music group. After all, why should we sacrifice our precious free time? I asked Kayley Wilson, a junior English major and member of both I Cantori and Chorale, for her answer and a few other questions about music at PUC.

“The payoff is great. There have been times where I’ve been thinking, ‘Man, I could be working on a paper right now.’ But there have been so many times when I’ve walked out going, ‘Wow. I am so less stressed about what was bothering me.’ I feel better … Singing is healthy. It causes you to breathe really deeply … Psychologically, physically it’s good for you. Even though there have been times when I’m like, ‘I could be doing something else,’ I feel it benefits me in so many ways. It’s not something I’m willing to give up, you know? It does limit your time sometimes. If you’re just in Chorale, a couple weekends a year you’re singing. It’s really not that much. I think it’s worth it.”

Why do you have such a high opinion of singing?
“There’s something so powerful about this big group of people all thinking about the same thing and focusing on the same thing when we live in this world where there’s so much division. It’s really a beautiful thing to be able to come together and do that.

Music relaxes me. It allows me to step outside of the daily struggles and focus on something I love. I love that a lot of it’s worship music and I love doing that. It’s an escape; it’s worship. I just think it’s really valuable … I also feel like whatever gift you’ve been given, doing it well is an act of worship … When I was in high school, I came from a Waldorf school and it wasn’t Christian, and now I go to this school where my professor is saying, ‘We’re singing the Bible; we’re singing Scripture.’ Literally, singing Scripture! He said, ‘When I’m conducting, I’m praying. My heart is in it; my soul is in it. I want you to think about singing in a choir as your personal worship time. You’re not performing for other people; you’re giving back to God.’ That really, really stuck with me.”

Why do you think people are hesitant to join music groups?
“Well, for one I think a lot of people are scared of joining music groups because they’re scared they don’t have the ability. The thing is, no one expects you to come in knowing everything. That’s why there’s an instructor.

If you like music, what kind of music are you interested in? Don’t think that ‘Oh, well, this was written in 1500sI’m not going to like that.’ You don’t know unless you’ve tried singing it, unless you’ve sat down and listened to it. It doesn’t have to be choirthat’s my background, but I have friends who are in Symphonic Wind Ensemble and they just have a blast. They’re always doing some really interesting pieces. I think it really builds communityreally, really builds community. It’s typical that you’re going to know more people within your department because you have events to go to and classes with all those people, but when you’re in a music ensemble, you also get to meet people from all over who maybe you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise and you’re all coming together for one common goal. I just think that’s so cool.

ensemble

One thing I think is really neat about being in an ensemble is that if you don’t feel confident, you’ve got a lot of people behind you. There’s something really beautiful about that unity; that we may not all sound amazing by ourselves, but we’re stronger and more powerful together.”

So, consider joining one of the music groups on campus and be part of a community, worshipping and singing together. Here’s a list of some of the larger ensembles at PUC:

  • Big Band–Rehearses and performs big band jazz. The group focuses on the development of reading and improvisation skills.
  • ChoralePerforms both sacred and secular music, in diverse styles and from many periods. It’s a large mixed chorus open to all students, faculty, and staff. The group normally performs one piece with the orchestra each year. There are auditions each quarter; however, membership for the whole school year is preferred.
  • Gospel ChoirExtensively surveys religious music from African-American worship experiences.
  • Handbell Choir–Performs every quarter, both on and off campus. There are two levels of handbell choir: The beginning choir is open to any student who can read music; the advanced handbell choir is for ringing level three music and above.
  • I CantoriPerforms both sacred and secular music. It’s a mixed-voice chamber ensemble for voice majors and other serious vocal students. It’s also a major touring ensemble and has a full performance schedule, including off campus tours. The director holds auditions at the beginning of fall quarter and year-long membership is required. Students in I Cantori are also required to register for Chorale.
  • Introductory String EnsemblePerforms music at the level of the group. The ensemble focuses on developing technique, musicianship, and ensemble skills.
  • OrchestraPerforms masterworks in concerts every quarter and at other events, both on and off campus. It’s for advanced string, wind, and brass players. The group often collaborates with soloists and other ensembles.
  • Praise Teams/Bands–There are opportunities to perform at both vespers and the PUC Church service Sabbath morning. Contact the religious vice president in the Student Association or the church office to learn more. You can also read our post “(P)Raise the Roof” for some thoughts on being part of a praise band at PUC.
  • Symphonic Wind Ensemble–Performs a diverse selection of music in a wide variety of settings and is for advanced instrumentalists. Tours and workshops occur on alternate years.

praise-band