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Wind festival shows music is thriving in schools

The Fresno State Music Building was lively as piccolo players fluttered through scales, clarinet players tuned their instruments and trumpet solos rang through the halls.

The College of Arts and Humanities welcomed approximately 1,500 students to campus for the 39th annual Sutherland Wind Festival on March 25.

The festival was established by former, director of bands, Dr. Lawrence R. Sutherland 39 years ago as a way to expose students to other university bands.

Fresno State students like Devyn Contreras, a sophomore majoring in equestrian science, assisted with check-in, T-shirt sales and escorting bands through the festival.

“I feel like [the festival is] a really great experience, especially hearing other bands and even [seeing] the college, in general.” Contreras said. “[Participants] will hear some really great, music so it will hopefully inspire them to continue with music.”

The three-day festival brought participants from three junior high schools, 16 high schools and nine college bands.

Each ensemble played a selection of three to four pieces for a panel of judges. After the performance, the groups moved to separate rooms and were provided verbal feedback from a judge.

Jason Cruz, a senior at Fresno State majoring in music education, said the festival provided a new perspective on how to better his personal performances.

“It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to some new literature, see some different teachers, see some different conductors and be able to have that kind of fellowship in an art that can feel very lonely if you don’t go out [to] see other groups,” Cruz said.

Saturday night’s festival concluded with a performance from the Sonoma State University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Andy Collinsworth, and the Fresno State Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Gary P. Gilroy, the director of bands for the university.

It was a full house in the Concert Hall for the Evening Gala Concert as Sonoma State took the stage first.

The symphonic wind ensemble played an assortment of compositions, some somber like “Elegy,” composed by John Banres Chance, while others that paralleled the emotion with bright, lively melodies like “Zion,” written by Dan Welcher.

The Fresno State Wind Orchestra followed with “Magnolia Star” a majestic, resilient piece composed by Steve Danyew, and percussion-heavy pieces like “Afterlife,” written by William Pitts.

Sutherland attended the gala as a special guest.

Also attending as a guest performer was Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Zelezny accompanied the Fresno State Wind Orchestra on its third piece, “Lincoln Portrait,” written by Aaron Copland and arranged by Clare Grundman, by reading lines from some of Lincoln’s famous speeches.

“It’s just been such a joy to get to know the student musicians and the comradery that they have.” Zelezny said. “They’re so kind. They have such great leadership, and they’re so supportive. I just feel honored to be part of this with them. They’re amazing musicians and artists.”

Gilroy invited the provost to be a part of the performance. Zelezny had been in rehearsal for about a month prior to the Gala, working with the concertmaster and listening to the composer on YouTube.

“I am inspired by this piece.” Zelezny said. “Speaking the words of Abraham Lincoln is a privilege. It’s very emotional. It makes me feel the awe of him speaking the words at the time of history that he did. It’s a powerful piece.”

Both college ensembles received standing ovations.