By Jewlina Matthews, Contributing Writer
As the 2015 fall semester begins, the WLU bands are adapting due to new and exciting changes. In the Summer of 2014, Dr. Matthew Inkster, director of instrumental activities and trumpet instructor had the opportunity to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic and recently, he accepted the visiting professor position at Ithaca College. Inkster continues to conduct the Wheeling Symphony Youth Orchestra on Sundays, while Professor Patrick Garrett has assumed his other duties at West Liberty University.
Professor Garrett is the acting director of bands at West Liberty University and has taken on a full load this semester. Garrett expressed his happiness that his colleagues believe he has the ability to act as director of bands this year. In addition to being the music education specialist and trombone specialist; Professor Garrett has a hand in budgeting for the wind ensemble, scheduling, inventory, library, programming, recruiting, and conducting the Wind Ensemble.
Garrett plans to take the wind ensemble on the same trajectory of excellence Inkster aimed for. Fundamentally, he pushes for the ensemble to excel in its performance. “Every university should have a professional ensemble,” Garrett said. “Any ensemble is for the education of students, an education mission.”
Directors of bands have this thought in mind while choosing music for their concerts. The pieces are chosen either because music students need to know these pieces, or there are techniques students need to master.
“I chose to play American band literature because wind and percussion majors need to know about history and people of the American Band movement, which began in the nineteenth century to the present day,” Garrett said, “The program provides opportunities to explore people and events that have shaped American music and wind and percussion performance.”
The West Liberty Marching Hilltoppers are also off to a running start this year. After four years as a Marching Hilltopper, I feel this has been one of the most productive seasons thus far. The rebuilt Hilltopper Marching band hasn’t been around for that long.
“Several installments of the marching band existed throughout the previous few decades,” Director Dr. Brian Baldauff said, “The most recent rebirth began in 2009 with a pep band and came to fruition with a marching band in 2010. I took the position as Director of Athletic Bands in 2011 and started that fall. Since 2011, the band has fluctuated in membership from fifty-five to sixty-five students and represents virtually every discipline on campus.”
“National statistics state that typically, one percent of the student population participates in a university marching band. Our average membership places us around two percent, which is something we feel great about,” Baldauff said.
Some changes Bauldauff brought to the band include the addition of rock band musicians on the sideline.
“This has added a new sound color for us and provided an authentic sound to many of our musical selections, Baldauff said. “In 2013, we unveiled our new uniforms. This was very exciting as it was the first time the band has had new uniforms in over twenty years!”
Baldauff’s mission for the marching band is very student centered. “I hope to create a positive atmosphere for the student members that is welcoming and encouraging,” Baldauff said. “Our rehearsal schedule is not as rigorous or time-consuming as some other institutions, but I still expect a high level of performance. Pushing the students to achieve this level of excellence is a priority.”
“I’m extremely proud of our current students and where we are at this point in the season. The future of the band could include more performance in the campus and local communities. We hope to be a part of student and university life for a long time at West Liberty,” Baldauff said.
This season’s theme for the half-time show is Arena Rock. “The music I selected represents classic iconic rock bands and songs from the 80’s and 90’s,” Baldauff said. “From the audience response so far, they seem to enjoy it. It makes me happy to hear the crowd singing along or clapping with us during the show.”
Currently the marching band doesn’t have any tours planned. However, the marching band will perform at the OVAC Showcase of Bands in Martins Ferry on Saturday, October 24. “We try to get off campus at least once each year to perform for high school students. This is a great way to connect with those students and let them know we have a terrific marching band that they could participate in while attending WLU,” Baldauff said.
The Marching Hilltoppers perform at all of the home games. If you have not yet seen the show, I highly recommend coming to the game.