Retiring professors leave with a bang

Bianca Tan

The sound of horns and woodwinds filled the Student Union Ballroom this past Sunday as UA’s Symphonic Band tuned up for their Spring Concert.

The atmosphere seemed extra sentimental, as it was the last concert not only for soon-to-be graduates, but many long-time School of Music faculty members as well –– including professor Robert Jorgensen, the Symphonic Band conductor and assistant director of the School of Music.

Family, friends and alumni were gathered, eager to be transported by the band’s musical selection which consisted of intricate and challenging pieces that showcased the group’s exceptional talent.Print

Before the concert, Kenneth Bloomquist, the guest conductor, said to the audience, “This is a very special ensemble and a special place to be. They are playing a program that is really impossible for most university bands.”

Bloomquist is the Michigan State University Director of Bands Emeritus and is the former president of both the American Bandmasters Association and the National Band Association. He is also Jorgensen’s mentor, and he came to guest conduct in honor of Jorgensen’s retirement.

“Jorgensen is a leader not only at The University of Akron, but in the entire U.S.,” said Bloomquist. “He will be missed, but his presence will be felt for years and years to come.”

The concert began with an upbeat celebratory piece titled “Jubilare!” It was fitting for the occasion as the piece was “originally conceived to mark a milestone,” as stated in the program notes.

Other pieces that were performed included Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” Ticheli’s “Loch Lomond” and Grantham’s “J.S. Dances.”

Jorgensen put the program together about a year ago, and it highlighted the band’s strengths in tone, balance and note accuracy.

In particular, “J.S. Dances,” which was commissioned for The University of Akron’s Symphonic Band and first performed in 2003, showed off the group’s skill through its fine lyrical phrases. As the upper woodwinds executed each note with accuracy that can only come from many hours of playing, the low brass kept the group well supported by adding layers to the music with countermelodies.

After a brief intermission, the Paragon Brass Quintet was introduced and played a new work by Akron alumnus Paul Ferguson. Titled “Paragon Suite for Brass Quintet and Wind Ensemble,” the piece consisted of four movements, each one playing to the strengths of one of the retiring members who was performing it.

At the conclusion of the concert, seniors and graduates were recognized for their impressive dedication and hard work.

Professor Jorgensen emphasized the students and said, “That’s what it’s all about. These are some outstanding young individuals who have done some excellent work.”

Dr. Ann Usher, the Director of the School of Music, honored retiring faculty members Samuel Gordon, William Hoyt, Scott Johnston, Tucker Jolly, Robert Jorgensen and George Pope as well as recent retirees Ed Zadrozny and Richard Shanklin.

It’s the end of an era for the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences School of Music. Applause and sentiments of appreciation filled the room for the six retirees who had a combined total of 180 years of service to the School of Music.