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Jacobs summer band play outdoors on campus





As he began to sing and dance to a Russian march the band had just completed, a man in his 90s won the hearts of a crowd gathered on the Musical Arts Center lawn.

Though the scene was not part of this year’s program, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music outdoor Summer Band concerts are anything but typical.

This man had grown up in Russia and was moved to tears by the piece the band had played because it reminded him of his childhood.

“Music touches people in many ways,” said Stephen Pratt, conductor of the first
Summer Band concert. “We’ve found that there are a lot of people who look forward to the concerts, and we play a variety of music that they can enjoy.”

Wednesday evening marked the beginning of the outdoor concert cycle.

However, the Summer Band concerts became a tradition more than 60 years ago.
Jacobs School students and faculty, including trombone soloist Carl Lenthe, performed for a diverse audience.

“There are more children. People bring their pets, lawn chairs and picnic blankets,” Pratt said. “They bring food and have picnics on the grounds before the concert. There are a variety of differences. There is a slightly more casual atmosphere than an indoor concert might have.”

Pratt began conducting the summer concerts in 1985, sharing the duties with other conductors in the Jacobs School band department.

“We try to balance the program in terms of time and the moods of the music to make sure it all fits together in a good way,” Pratt said.

He added that the repertoire usually consists of lighter material than the typical band concert, including music from Broadway shows, movie scores, marches and polkas.

“Something I find very enjoyable is the incredible support and loyalty of the audience,” Pratt said. “There are people who drive in from the Indianapolis area or Louisville to go eat on Fourth Street and come to the concert. They make an enjoyable day of it.”

Flautist Felice Doynov, IU junior and flute performance major, took part in the event last summer as well.

“The crowd is so appreciative,” she said. “They’re looking for a good time and good band music. They come up to you afterward smiling because they’re happy and you’re happy. It’s a good feeling.”

Pratt said the band members have to become accustomed to wind and humidity, as well as physical surroundings, which played a role in the sound that reached the audience.

“The street in front of the MAC, Jordan Avenue, is closed for the time during the concert, so we won’t get a lot of traffic noise to drown out the sensitive times,” he said.

Brett A. Richardson, associate instructor and doctoral student in wind conducting, played multiple roles to make the performance a success.

Aside from coordinating the work crew and sound system, Richardson was unexpectedly asked to play the euphonium for the band. He will also conduct two pieces in the second installment of the concert cycle, which he said is a great privilege.

“As a performer, you’re playing outside and the sound goes out into the air and goes on forever,” Richardson said. “You have to really watch the conductor because the sound can even bounce off Read Residence Hall. Sometimes you almost feel like you’re playing by yourself in the closet. It doesn’t ring like it would in a gymnasium or concert hall.”

The band also provided a unique perspective for Doynov, who said playing in the orchestra for “Der Rosenkavalier” in winter was a more intense and stressful environment.

“The placement of flutes in orchestras is more in the center,” she said. “Here, we’re up in the conductor’s area, which is very close. It’s a different feeling of ‘Oh my gosh, you can hear every note I’m playing.’ I also like the different style of music. It’s good to adapt to a larger dynamic setting.”

Richardson just completed his first year toward his doctorate, where he frequently took lessons and worked on his craft with Pratt.

“It’s the first time I’m playing in an ensemble here in the Jacobs School, and I’m looking at it from a different point of view,” Richardson said. “One of the benefits is getting to watch this master teacher work with this group that just came together to produce a high-quality product, and I’m trying to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can.”

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