A year after his death, students perform music for professor who inspired them

The President’s Quintet performs “The Traveler’s Tale” on March 4, 2018 at the music department Concert Hall for a memorial tribute to Dr. Brad Hufft. Hufft wrote “The Traveler’s Tale” specifically for the quintet in 2007 after an inspiring research trip to New Mexico. (Alejandro Soto/The Collegian)

The President’s Quintet, a scholarship ensemble that performs on behalf of Fresno State, was featured Sunday at the concert remembering music professor Dr. Brad Hufft. Hufft died nearly a year ago.

The quintet played “The Traveler’s Tale,” which was first performed by the 2007 President’s Quintet, and is one of the wind quintets written by Hufft.

Flute player and member of the quintet Katrina Bissett said the ensemble approached Hufft about playing the piece before he died. He sat in on their rehearsals and provided feedback for the group, she said. The performance was rehearsed frequently.

“We were preparing it more and more and we actually played it at a recital last year,” Bissett said. 

Gathered inside the Concert Hall of the Music Building, the memorial concert featured Fresno State musicians paying tribute to Hufft, whose selfless, gracious and humble character is forever memorialized through his students, said Bissett.

“He said something to me that honestly stuck with me,” she said. “He said, ‘Sweat the small stuff because the big stuff will work itself out.’”

She said Hufft made an effort to work with his students, and to teach them to try their best and enjoy life. He showed her what she was capable of doing, she said.

Ellie Choate, Hufft’s wife, kicked off the performances on the harp performing “Heaven,” (1979) a sweet, wistful melody that is reminiscent of roaming through the clouds.

Donations were collected for a scholarship to be presented in Hufft’s name.

The concert concluded with “Songs for the Living,” the composition by Hufft completed days before his death. The piece, which was inspired by poems from his late father-in-law, illuminated the conversational tone of each poem through soprano and baritone soloists.

Brooke Ferdinandsen, music education major and member of the President’s Quintet, connected with Hufft over their similar interest in audio engineering and recording. She had chosen him to be her adviser for the honors music program.

“He was super-talented with not only that,” she said. “He was a composer. He was a performer, and he was a great teacher.”

She said Hufft was well-loved by students and faculty in the department.

Ferdinandsen said the thing she would remember most about Hufft is his ability to connect with his students.

“He would always talk to us outside of our classes because he really cared about his students,” she said.

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