The LSU Wind Ensemble . . .
In February 2004 the La Sierra University Wind Ensemble was a featured group at the Christian Instrumentalists and Directors National Conference in Tennessee. The following is the story of how that singular honor came about, and how the wind ensemble was received by those in attendance.
The audience's response was unexpected - a rare instantaneous standing ovation in the midst of a concert. Two singers, accompanied by the La Sierra University Wind Ensemble, had just finished singing He's Got the Whole World In His Hands, when the deeply moved audience responded with an emotional and prolonged ovation. What made this audience's reaction so surprising was that it was a discerning group of band directors and students from other bands at a national convention, persons not usually easily impressed or given to this type of response.
When the concert ended after one more number, another prolonged enthusiastic standing ovation left no doubt as to the success of this LSU Wind Ensemble concert under the direction of Barbara Favorito and guest conductor David Holsinger.
Seven bands, orchestras, and ensembles nationwide were selected for the honor of playing for the annual Christian Instrumentalists and Directors Association National Convention hosted by Lee University in Tennessee. A noted band composer and member of the advisory board for CIDA, James Curnow, who knew about Favorito and her work with the LSU band, had recommended to CIDA that they invite her and her group to perform. When the invitation was extended, Favorito, computed the cost, checked with LSU administrators, and got approval to raise the $26,000 needed to take the group to the convention.
The money was raised in the usual ways with projects, offerings at concerts, mailings to former members of the wind ensemble and others, and some assistance from LSU. Ensemble alumni were particularly supportive. Each of the ensemble's 43 members was also responsible for $150 beyond the larger goal.
The students found working with guest conductor Holsinger to be an exciting experience. He, in turn, was both impressed and pleased with their playing. Further validation of their talent occurred when many of the students were chosen to participate in an 85-member CIDA honor band conducted by Ray Cramer at the convention. A disproportionate number of LSU students were placed in the principal chairs of that select group after auditions. Yet another affirmation of the group came when most of the trumpet section was able to play in a trumpet ensemble composed mostly of the directors and professional players. It was an inspiration for the students to interact with Phil Smith, principal trumpet in the New York Philharmonic and featured solo artist of the conference, as he worked with that convention ensemble.
Aunique feature of the LSUWE concert at the convention was the incorporation of a cappella singing by the band during its performance of Claude Smith's God of Our Fathers. The audience's enthused response at the end of that number reflected their amazement at the quality of the singing. One reason for that is the high number of members in the ensemble who also sing.
Two outstanding examples of that are Amanda Hall and Ramona Rivera, accomplished oboist and flutist, respectively, who are also voice majors. The convention's response to their singing of He's Got The Whole World In His Hands, was not totally unexpected since it had elicited a similar reaction on campus and, subsequently, in performances with the LSUWE, after it had been arranged for that group by Juan Diaz, another music major.
The invitation to play had come in the fall of 2003, six months before the convention. Although it was short notice, the LSU administration immediately lent its support and members of the ensemble eagerly responded to the challenge of properly preparing for the event. Given the constraints in student schedules and the fact that there were few extra rehearsals, members invested extra time in personal practice, perfecting parts on their own.
Following the trip, LSUWE members enthusiastically shared their convention impressions on campus, humbled by the witness they had collectively been able to provide for their school and the church. They were heartened by the fact that they were able to more than hold their own when compared directly with larger public universities and colleges.
Favorito in a recent interview, observed: "The students did a wonderful job representing the university, their ensemble, and the church. Attendees at the convention were lavish in their praise not only of our concert, but about the students' talents and their behavior. The hotel, restaurants, airline, and bus drivers also were impressed with our students, going out of their way to express their pleasure over their interactions with them. Even though it was an exhausting experience, it was also one of the most exhilarating moments in my career. I would do it again in an instant."