WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., January 12, 2021 – At a time when performing ensembles struggle to find ways to make music with each other and share it with audiences, the West Liberty University Concert Band didn’t just manage to rehearse in nobody, they put themselves in the national spotlight.
“With the onset of COVID-19, one of many health and safety recommendations for large instrumental ensembles, especially those that can only rehearse indoors, was to reduce the size of the ensemble and to space musicians 6 to 9 feet apart,” said Dr. Gretchen L. Pohlman, WLU Bands Director and Wheeling resident.
“WLU’s concert bands rehearse at College Hall throughout the fall and spring semesters. Due to the size of this space and to ensure the 6-9 foot distance between musicians, I was forced to reduce the size of the University orchestra.
With this downsizing of the ensemble came the problem of finding quality literature for the ensemble to perform, she noted.
“I started contacting composers and arrangers I knew and asking if they were working on or considering rearranging some of their works for more flexible instrumentation. One of the first people I contacted was Pam Smith Kelly, president of Claude T. Smith Publications, and Smith’s daughter. Not only did Mrs. Kelly have original Claude T. Smith literature that was arranged for small groups and with flexible instrumentation, but she asked if we would be interested in recording these works which will be released soon.
Recognizing the wonderful opportunity this presented to students in WLU’s Band Program, Pohlman did not hesitate to accept Kelly’s offer. Throughout the fall semester, the University Concert Band rehearsed and recorded Smith’s first two newly arranged tracks – Opening of the declaration and Opening of Avondale.
With many additional works in the works, this recording project will continue through the spring semester for WLU’s Harmony Program.
“Being part of a recording project of this magnitude has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved. And I couldn’t be more proud of the members of the University Concert Band, or more humbled to have the opportunity to stand before them and serve as their conductor. With all the obstacles and distractions that COVID-19 has presented to us over the past semester, these students, university professors and community members in the region came together and produced a beautiful product that they should be nothing but proud of,” Pohlman said.
The first performance of these works took place recently.
Pohlman has also worked with Theresa Gretchen of WLU’s streaming platform known as Raising station to put the finishing touches on a band concert during the holidays which is now posted online at: topperstation.com/watch/wlu-bands-holiday-special-2020.
This performance includes the WLU University Concert Band, Steel Band, African Drum & Dance Ensemble and The Marching Hilltoppers.
For complete information about the WLU Music Department, please visit westliberty.edu/music or call 304-336-8006.