The UW-Whitewater Symphonic Wind Ensemble rehearses before a concert at Young Auditorium on Sunday, March 2, 2014.
Just 14 months ago, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's Symphonic Wind Ensemble played to thunderous applause and a standing ovation at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall.
On Tuesday, April 8, this talented group of musicians will travel to the Windy City for its latest high-profile engagement as the showcase ensemble at the Chicago International Music Festival.
"It's a real tribute to students' hard work -- a work ethic that's been handed down with each class," said Glenn Hayes, professor of music and director of the ensemble. "We're going to create the best music we can to evoke feeling."
The performance will take place at the historic Chicago Symphony Center, built in 1904, and home to that city's famous orchestra.
UW-Whitewater's 45-minute repertoire includes "Festive Overture" by Dmitri Shostakovich, "Joe's Last Mix" by Tanner Menard, "Gallop" by Alfred Reed, and George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."
Myung Hee Chung, professor of music, will perform the piano solo.
"‘Rhapsody in Blue' is recognizable to audiences because of the United Airlines commercials," she said. "It is a very catchy melody."
When playing, Chung uses no sheet music, relying solely on memory to perform the 16-minute arrangement.
"Memorizing the composition allows the pianist to concentrate on the musical aspect of the piece," she said. "When I'm performing it, I'm having fun. It reminds me of a late summer afternoon -- the repetition of notes, harmonies, the melodies are all very jazz-related."
Chung and the UW-Whitewater students are no strangers to performing in prestigious venues, but say they are excited nonetheless.
"In 2005, I performed with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at Manchester Cathedral in England," said Nicole Konz, senior music major and percussionist. "It's amazing how unforgettable the experience is."
Hayes recalled the ensemble's time at Carnegie Hall, and the venue's ability to lift already strong performances into the music stratosphere.
"A flood of feelings overwhelmed me at that moment. It's the fullest sound you can ever imagine -- where the music comes alive -- and the floor is vibrating," he said. "It's an incredibly organic moment."
He hopes his students feel that same musical epiphany in Chicago.
"Our musicians are following their passions," he said. "I want them to experience excellence. It stays with you for a lifetime.
-- Written by Jeff Angileri