by Daniel Hathaway
Northeast Ohio’s newest youth ensemble will burst onto the scene on Saturday, November at 7:00 pm at Kent State University, when the Kent State Youth Winds make their debut in Cartwright Auditorium.
Led by Wendy K. Matthews, KSU’s director of bands, the new ensemble numbers 48 high school age players equally divided between males and females, and fills both an educational gap and a geographical void in the Kent area. “I grew up in a rural area and would have done anything to be in a group like this growing up,” Matthews said in a Zoom call.
The ensemble, which rehearses weekly and is scheduled to play three concerts this season, is managed by Matthews and a group of Kent State students who serve as Mentors. “They hold sectionals, play alongside the young musicians, and are involved in every aspect of the ensemble. It’s a very practical way for them to get experience before they go off and student teach,” she said.
Matthews and her Mentors have been working toward Saturday’s debut since May when auditions were scheduled — right in the middle of COVID and the restrictions the pandemic placed on wind players, which have been only slightly relaxed recently.
A trumpet player herself, Matthews finds playing through a face mask to be “stuffy, but you get used to it — because not making live music isn’t an option.” The audience for Saturday’s debut will be limited to 400 attendees, and the masked musicians will be more widely separated on stage than usual.
The concert is part of the Kent State University Glauser School of Music’s annual Wind Band Conductor’s Symposium, and Matthews is excited to welcome one of her own mentors, Anthony Maiello, as guest conductor on Saturday. Maiello serves as professor and associate director of the George Mason University School of Music in Fairfax, Virginia.
“I did my PhD with him, and our timpanist’s mother played with him in Pennsylvania All-State,” Matthews said. “He’s a real educator. I gave him his choice of groups to conduct during his visit, and he said ‘Give me the kids. I want the kids.’ I feel my life is coming full circle to be able to conduct on the same stage as my teacher.”
Another special guest on Saturday will be trumpeter Chris Petrella, the 2021 winner of the High School Division of the National Trumpet Competition. Petrella will be featured in Clifton Williams’ Dramatic Essay, a work commissioned for trumpeter Don Jacoby.
KSU is making the program book for Saturday’s performance available for download. Click here for more information about the performers and mentors for the debut concert of the Kent State Youth Winds.
In closing our conversation, Wendy Matthews offers the striking statistic that 582 days will have passed since the last performance by wind players at Kent. “I can’t wait to get rid of bell covers and COVID protocols like distancing. I was so happy three years ago not knowing anything about mucus, aerosols, or HVAC!”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com November 3, 2021.
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