The Mount St. Joseph University Singers and the University Band each held their first concerts of the 2018 fall semester on October 4 and October 11. Both groups have grown significantly this past semester, both in membership and in skill.
The University Choir boasts more than double its membership compared to last year, and welcomes a new choir director in Mr. Joseph Rivers. The program has expanded its performances to concerts twice a semester to singing at feast day Masses,and even incorporating off-campus events. Additionally, beginning this semester, students can receive a $500 financial award each semester for their participation in band or choir.
The Mount is becoming known for a variety of instrumental ensembles, including the concert band, pep band, jazz band and steel drum band. Many students participate in more than one, sometimes selecting instruments they have never played before.
“Yes, we’ve grown in membership, but I also think we’re more balanced as an ensemble,” says assistant band director Tim Kennedy. “It’s no longer five flutes and a tuba.” In the past few years, the band has grown from its members a few to more than twenty strong for the 2018-2019 school year. The university jazz band was originally formed by five concert band students who wanted to create a new ensemble with a different style. The group has expanded this year, invited a number of high school students to play with the group, and is looking toward expanding their performances beyond the Mount's Theatre.
When music department chair and band director Mark McCafferty organized his first drumline at the Mount, half of the individuals involved were faculty. Now, the drumline is all students, and has been fully incorporated into the university pep band that plays for every home football game.
Performing in the Real World
For band members, who are music majors and non-music majors alike, the faculty have a crucial tidbit of knowledge that they want to bestow: the importance of real-world experience. “If you want to be a professional in the music industry, particularly in jazz, you have to be able to read [music], and you have to play styles,” says Mr. Kennedy. Students are individually responsible for their own practicing, and music majors in particular are expected to organize their individual performances through their repertoire class, which mirrors a performance situation in the real world. It is this kind of independent thinking and personal accountability that the faculty of the music department strive to develop.
Going forward, the music department is dedicated to improving opportunities for student performance, individually, in smaller ensembles, and in the large existing ensembles. Mr. Rivers has his own gauge for the health of a music program at any institution: “The number of performances, the variety, and the quality of instruction shows that a music department is vibrant and lively.” Through the hard work of the faculty and the support of the administration, Mount St. Joseph students have a renewed opportunity to participate and contribute to making music at the Mount.