Ensemble performances challenge, inspire music majors

This year, Frost School of Music students have been able to live the musician’s dream of performing onstage.

Frost majors, which must play in a musical ensemble of some style their freshman year, have been given the opportunity for the first time to perform in front of other ensembles every Monday night. After each performance, professors and other Frost faculty give feedback to the student musicians.

Blake Buller, a sophomore music business major with Jazz Performance emphasis, describes his Monday night performance was more than beneficial.

“Being able to perform and surround myself with such talented musicians, and perform in front of such accomplished faculty inspire me to do my best and always set the bar high,” Buller said.

After auditioning and being accepted into the Frost School of Music, students of all majors are enrolled in the experiential music curriculum (EMC). Students must then audition to be placed in a skills ensemble based on level, skill and area of focus. These ensembles range from classical Be-Bop to world music and hip-hop

Each member of the ensemble attends a private lesson once a week to practice and perfect their skills for class-time practices that meet twice a week.

EMC trains musicians using a program that integrates performance, music history, ear training, music composition and theory altogether in six hours of weekly training. This prepares students for any professional music careers.

Daniel Susnjar, a jazz skills ensemble instructor, explains that the program is unique because it combines the learning and development of ensemble performance skills, music theory, learning of repertoire, stylistic authenticity and jazz improvisation into one comprehensive class.

“The program was very rewarding and a great challenge to me as a teacher,” Susnjar said. “I saw a real willingness from the students to develop their musicianship and to be challenged. The level of improvement of the ensemble was noticeable to not only the group themselves, but also to the student body and faculty.”

Sophomore studio music and jazz drum set performance major Matt Tatro participates in the concert jazz band, the top jazz ensemble, where he plays the drums. His ensemble is taught by Grammy award-winner and jazz trumpeter Brian Lynch. The duo directs the ensemble’s area of focus on studying the sounds of tenor saxophonist John Coltrane.

“I love learning and studying the sounds of such amazing musicians and applying them to my own music,” Tatro said.

Lynch said he learns from his students’ enthusiasm to soak in the sounds of veteran players, like himself, and loves sharing the music he loves with his fellow students. He said his students are more than just an ensemble, but are almost like a family.

“I’ve been working with these talented musicians for two years now, that we’ve formed a family,” Lynch said.

Tatro agrees.

“Yeah, we are a family for sure, we have everyone from a crazy uncle, goofball, and a stubborn stickler, which is me,” he said. “Because support from one another is required at all times while playing, we get on each other about each others’ playing to satisfy a unified, balanced sound.”

Students can catch the ensembles’ performances every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the Wesley Foundation CoffeeHouse event.