Music faculty perform outreach in area schools

March 27 2007

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Students aren't the only ones performing at Indiana State University. Faculty music ensembles also take to the road to expose young minds to different styles of music, educate them about the musical instruments and inspire them to make their own music.

Randy Mitchell, interim department chairperson, said the department's three ensembles (brass, string and woodwind) are active on campus and serve as musical ambassadors out in the community and beyond.

Brian Kilp, a member of the faculty ensembles since 1998, has the privilege of playing in both the brass and woodwind ensembles.

"The horn is probably the single most versatile instrument in the orchestra because of its ability to blend with any instrument. Because of that we do have the role or honor of getting to perform with not only the brass ensemble, but also with the wind quintet," Kilp said.

That poses a variety of challenges.

"I have twice as much music to learn and I have to play in a slightly different style. Sometimes we'll have to do it literally in one concert, like when we play at schools. I play in both groups so I have to put my woodwind hat on and my brass hat on all in a matter of minutes," Kilp said.

Playing a wide variety of music, Indiana State's faculty ensembles have expanded their outreach to include younger students and into Illinois.

"I personally believe our role as an outreach program goes well beyond recruiting students. That's why this year we've begun to visit elementary and middle schools. I think a university is a resource for the entire community," Kilp said.

Faculty ensembles have made two trips to Franklin Elementary School -- one by members of the brass group, made up of Mitchell, Kilp, Robert Waugh, Alex Lapins and Nancy Watkins and one by the woodwinds. The woodwinds also recently performed at Deming Elementary School.

According to Kilp, Franklin was a natural choice to kick off this expanded outreach, since the music teacher, Lori Carpenter, is an Indiana State alumna.

"We knew they would welcome us and the students would be prepared. We knew that if we could bring something like 'Peter and the Wolf' to the school the kids would have no trouble connecting to it immediately," he said.

The quintet, made up of Joyce Wilson, Kilp, William Denton, Chad Roseland and Sarah Burk, was hoping they could get the students to not only connect with the well-known story from Stalinist Russia, but how music can illuminate a story.

"It happens all the time when you go to a film. You might not realize a lot of the reason why you're enjoying the movie is because the way music and sounds effects are used. 'Peter and the Wolf' is sort of a miniature version of that," Kilp said.

Mitchell, a member of the Faculty Brass Ensemble since 1990, sees the outreach as a chance to open children's minds to the arts and gives them a chance to learn more by asking questions.

"It's a wonderful way to get younger children excited about playing an instrument and music making. I hope that the young students have an experience unlike anything they have ever had - the opportunity to experience live music, hear interesting music and the inspiration to make music themselves. The question and answer time is very important at this age," he said.

Besides inspiring children to make their own music, the question and answer session also calls on them to use their imagination.

"Today with television and technology, students are oftentimes asked not to use their imagination. When you have a group of people onstage doing nothing but making sounds, the student has to engage their minds. The arts ask students to use their imagination to produce things. There's no right or wrong answer," said Denton, a founding member of the Faculty Woodwind Quintet.

For Monica Allaben, another ISU music alumna and the music teacher at Deming Elementary, it reinforces what she has been teaching in the classroom.

"They remember what they've learned so much better. It brings to life everything I'm teaching them," she said.

Recent outreach efforts at Effingham and Mattoon high schools in Illinois were more than just about recruiting; they were about exposing students to a higher level of performance while allowing them the opportunity to interact with members of the music faculty.

Kilp said the music department has wanted to visit schools included in ISU's Southeastern Illinois Tuition Waiver program, which allows students living in 20 Illinois counties a substantial reduction in out-of-state tuition. ISU music faculty zeroed in on Effingham and Mattoon because several students from those areas participated in a band weekend and impressed faculty members.

"One of the students from our all-star band weekend, Nick Cannaday, attends Effingham High School. During our visit, Nick introduced me to his fellow horn players and we talked about what they've been doing recently, the performances they've had. We are connecting with young musicians and that’s what we want to do," Kilp said.

Students often seek out faculty members playing the instrument they do.

"When the students come up to me they're most often oboe players and they're asking questions about the instrument. Especially about the mechanism of how we make our sound - the reed, problems they're having and things like that. Occasionally they'll ask about how you apply to ISU or what would you suggest we do to prepare for auditions," Denton said.

Mitchell has experienced first hand the impact of the music department's outreach on the musical lives of students.

"The Brass Ensemble went to a southern Indiana school to perform after they participated in our Concert Band Invitational. One of the trombonists in the band came up to me after our performance. That student said because of what I had taught them when they visited ISU, she was able to get past some playing problems that had frustrated her to the point of considering giving up the horn. Something obviously clicked with what I had said during the master class and she was very happy with her progress and the idea of quitting was long gone," he recalled.

For the school band directors, the visit provided an added dimension to regular classroom instruction.

"They get to see a lot of larger groups perform but not a lot of small groups. It was a nice mix of brass and woodwind pieces and featured all different types of music. The students had the chance to see the professors being professional musicians and interact with them afterwards. It was really nice," Todd Black, director of bands at Mattoon High School, said.

Mitchell hopes the visits leave high school musicians something to think about as they prepare for upcoming competitions.

"We usually program some solo and ensemble competition pieces in our performances and talk about the problems associated in preparing that particular selection. Our typical tour time is just before Thanksgiving -- a time when high school students are picking solos and ensembles. We hope our performances inspire some of the students to put together a quintet for ISSMA contest," he said.

For students like Carrie Riegle, a Mattoon High School junior, it encouraged her to work harder and continue her musical experience in college.

"I'd like to see more of these visits. When we see the faculty playing, it shows us the level and skill that is out there. I would like to play at that level someday," she added.

The experience has as much or more value to the faculty members as the students they visit, according to Kilp.

"It helps us all to grow as musicians. Not only are we trying to keep current with the latest literature for our instruments and ensembles but it also helps us grow individually and as an ensemble to work together regularly."

The experience of playing in a small ensemble also helps relate to their students.

"You learn a lot about your colleagues, their personality and how they react in musical situations. That helps you relate better to your students," Denton said.

In addition to its outreach efforts, faculty ensembles perform at a number of campus and community functions, conferences and conventions. According to Denton, it's important that students see their teachers being professional musicians.

"I think it's extremely important that the students see their teachers in a performance situation doing the same things that the teacher is asking them to be doing in their careers," Denton said.

Whether it's in front of elementary students, high school students or adults, the work of Indiana State's faculty ensembles is rewarding and very worthwhile.

"If we touch one person, we've accomplished what education is all about," Denton concluded.

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Contact and writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications & Marketing, (812) 237-3783 or pmeyer4@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

Students aren't the only ones performing at Indiana State University. Faculty music ensembles also take to the road to expose young minds to different styles of music, educate them about the musical instruments and inspire them to make their own music.

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