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The Full Force of UA's Wind Ensemble
Members of the UA Wind Ensemble are either training to become professional musicians or music teachers and, along the way, regularly perform and compete publicly.
Chad Travis, initially drawn to the University of Arizona because of the Eller College of Management, decided to attend after learning about the connection contemporary American composer David Maslanka has with the School of Music.
Travis first played one of Maslanka's pieces during a high school competition. Drawn to the composer, he began searching the Internet to learn more about him, finding that Maslanka and UA music professor Gregg I. Hanson, who directs the Wind Ensemble, are friends.
And here comes the treat: Travis, a second alto saxophonist, has been diligently preparing with other members of the 75-member ensemble for a Nov. 30 performance during which Maslanka will serve as a guest composer.
"It kind of blows my mind," said Travis, a pre-business sophomore studying the saxophone in the School of Music.
"It's a humbling experience," said Travis, also a senator with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.
The Wind Ensemble is able to make such connections because of its long history of exceptional performance, said Hanson, also UA's director of bands.
Members of the ensemble perform at UA commencement ceremonies, athletic events, regional competitions and other performances nationally and, sometimes, abroad.
Ross Helland, a music education senior, said that while the training is essential, performing also is crucial for continued development.
"It's kind of a way to get your tensions out," said Helland, who said he is particularly drawn to Maslanka's "Unending Stream of Life," which the ensemble will perform.
"The concerts are very rewarding," he said, "and it feels very good to know that you performed well."
The ensemble also has a number of commercial albums available and has previously recorded with a range of contemporary composers such as Maslanka, who formed his relationship with the UA in 1993 through his friendship with Hanson.
"There is nothing better than having the actual composer in the room, and it's such a grand experience for the students to meet him in person," Hanson said, adding that the ensemble will perform some of Maslanka's work.
"This music is very powerful stuff," Hanson said. "It is very palatable. It's deep, it's dark, but pretty powerful."
The demands can be rigorous, requiring students to spent hours rehearsing each day, and also challenging in a productive way, said Victoria Hauk, a UA senior studying flute performance.
"The school is pulling students from every ensemble, so you are not just playing with people you usually play with," Hauk said.
Like Travis, Hauk was familiar with the work of the ensemble prior to coming to the UA.
"I feel fortunate to be in the Wind Ensemble," she said, adding that the group – along with others in the music school – has forced her to think about her music and performance "at a higher level."