As the Goshen College Symphony Orchestra faces low numbers, students hope stable leadership will increase participation.Victor Vegas, a junior music major and violin player, explaining his perspective on the recent low membership said, “the previous semester, we had a kind of rocky situation with an interim director … and I feel like that probably made people lose motivation to join orchestra.”
One immediate solution that has been implemented concerning membership is hiring community members to play in performances. One such member is Kristin Waltner, interim registrar at GC and flautist. On her decision to join, Waltner said, “It felt like a win-win because I was able to help meet a need in the orchestra … and it gave me an opportunity to be a part of an organized ensemble.”
Waltner continued “It has been really special to get to be part of this with students … You just get to know and … see student personalities and sense of humour differently … especially in an ensemble where they’re working together to create something.”
Richard Brunson, associate professor of music and orchestra director, said that working with community members was “nothing new” to him, but said, “It is good … that the students have the opportunity to work with experienced professional musicians… That’s a good mentoring [and] teaching opportunity that you wouldn’t get if it was an all-student orchestra.”
When asked about the limitations of low membership, both Vegas and Kate Roth, a first-year music education major and trumpet player, had similar answers. Roth said, “Right now, we’re kind of limited to smaller [pieces] that aren’t necessarily exciting – to me at least.”
Vegas brought up one specific piece they performed last semester to illustrate this point. He said, “[when] we did Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns … that was a really fun performance, but … had we had a bigger orchestra, it would’ve been way more impactful.”
On a positive note, Vegas said, “Because we’re so [few] people, we know each other very well and we know how to work with each other … and that allows us to … work nicely and efficiently, and we get things done quickly.”
On the topic of connecting with other students, Roth said, “All of us in the brass section [are] … I would say good friends … and that’s translated over to jazz band and brass quartet. It’s a good way to connect with upperclassmen as well.”
About his experience, Vegas said, “It [has] basically become a third family … We have a fun time.”
The orchestra is looking towards the future, and in the long run, everyone has high hopes.
Brunson said, “I would like to see the program grow. I would like to see an orchestra that’s almost twice as big as it is now.” He also talked about dreams of starting a band program, and how the new pep band has already increased the visibility of music in the community.
On her hopes, Roth said, “I think that having a director that’s going to presumably stay here for a while … is going to eventually bring more people in and we can hopefully get a bigger orchestra that gets to do more fun things.”
“Rehearsals are fun!” Waltner said. “It was really fun to watch the rapport that was built between Dr. Brunson and the students … they have a really good thing going and I think that’s really promising for the orchestra moving forward.”
Continuing, Waltner said, “I hope that … student enthusiasm grows and that if there are other students on campus that play an instrument, maybe their interest will be piqued.”
As final words of encouragement, Vegas said, “Join orchestra! It’s so much fun. You might get cookies if you join.”