TCNJ Wind Ensemble’s Trip to the CBDNA by Andrew Unger

As part of the TCNJ Wind Ensemble, Music major Andrew Unger traveled to Boston for the College Band Director’s National Association (CBDNA) Eastern Division Conference. Read more about his impressions of this three-day conference and of the TCNJ Wind Ensemble’s performances!

In the first week of March, the TCNJ Wind Ensemble made a three-day trip to Boston to perform at the College Band Director’s National Association Eastern Division Conference. In attendance were prominent band directors from around the country, while musicians of all stripes joined to contribute to the interdisciplinary program.

On the first day of our journey, the bitter cold could not distract us from giving a powerhouse preview performance at JP Stevens High School. We swiftly set up shop on the stage of the school’s auditorium, including a hub of electronics equipment and an extensive battery of percussion instruments, and presented Pulse for a large and appreciative audience.

Professor David Vickerman and TCNJ Wind Ensemble

Professor David Vickerman and TCNJ Wind Ensemble

The first event of our first morning in Boston was a presentation at the New England Conservatory on the beginnings of the Third Stream Revolution. The discussion featured Gunther Schuller and David Amram, two extremely important composers and horn players who are well known for their proficiency as both classical and jazz musicians. To hear these legends of 20th century music speak was as inspirational as it was awe-inspiring. Clearly young at heart, they both shared their early experiences as professional musicians and the difficulties and ridicule that they faced as interdisciplinary musicians.

I was so moved by David Amram’s passionate humanist sentiments that I decided to stay behind after the talk to introduce myself. I am typically hilariously clumsy in these social situations, but in this case I was unusually nervous. I fidgeted just a few yards away from Amram and a group of his friends for what seemed like hours as I attempted to work up the courage to speak to this living legend.

Once I finally approached him, his warm smile and kind words completely disarmed me. I could hardly speak, and my few stammering utterances, “thank you,” “advice,” and “scared,” were buried by his sincerity and willingness to calm my nerves. To meet such a prominent musician who had had the same insecurities and uncertainties that I have when he was my age re-instilled a long-lost feeling of hope in me. By the time he had dumped four of his inscribed CDs in my hands and firmly patted me on the back, I realized that we were the only two people left in the hall.

Thanking him one last time, I stumbled outside to learn that I was fifteen minutes late to pick up my horn from the bus. Had my friends not been thoughtful enough to keep my instrument safe and bring it to our next location, I might not have been able to retrieve it in time for the evening performance.

Professor David Vickerman and TCNJ Wind Ensemble

Professor David Vickerman and TCNJ Wind Ensemble

That afternoon was spent hearing the Gotham winds, attending a presentation on George Gershwin, and exploring the dining options in Boston. I was eager to get on stage. By the time I returned to our beautiful performance venue, the Fenway Center, we had learned that some musicians from the Hartt School were late, so the TCNJ Wind Ensemble was to perform first. As I warmed up for the sound check, I noticed that two composers whose music was featured on our program were present: John Mackey and Christopher Stark. It was then that the nerves began to set in; I realized that there were many prominent figures in the audience who were waiting patiently to hear us. And as I had sincerely expected, our concert was well-received and applauded vigorously. I was happy and relieved to see the smiling faces of my friends and colleagues after the performance. We were all equally impressed with Dr. Vickerman’s passionate conducting and the masterful showcase given by our faculty soloists. It was a job well done.

Afterwards, the Hartt School’s contemporary music group, the Foot in the Door Ensemble, gave an exciting and engaging performance of the music of composers including Ives and Andriessen. I was impressed with the cohesiveness and showmanship of the musicians. It was a chamber performance set to the utmost professional standard, and I admired especially the diversity of their program.

The next day began with a composer’s round table discussion, at which many of our faculty and students heard John Mackey speak about his approach to composition. Afterwards, looking for a change of scenery, I joined a group of close friends at the New England Aquarium. I saw a really big turtle.

On the bus ride home, it was satisfying to reflect on these incredible experiences that I shared with my classmates and professors throughout the weekend. We gave two outstanding performances, experienced the sights and sounds of the city, and heard the wisdom of some extremely renowned musicians. I am so grateful to have been a part of this exciting endeavor so close to my graduation. I will not soon forget this conference or the friends who joined me there.


Andrew Unger: Spring Music Performances to Help You Forget the Winter Snow!

Andrew Unger, senior Music major, gets you up-to-date with the Department of Music’s events for this Spring 2014 semester! If you haven’t already, make sure you purchase tickets for these great upcoming performances at TCNJ,

We’ve had a seemingly endless winter to kick off 2014. When I’m scraping the frozen, stubborn façades of snow from the roof of my car every morning, it seems like there’s not very much to look forward to.

But that’s not the case. Eventually the snow will melt, and we at the music department will most likely celebrate by frolicking in the lawn outside the music building, with metronomes in hand and theory homework crumpled in our back pockets. A well-deserved celebration after a long couple of months.

In reality, we have plenty look forward to in terms of performances and touring. As I mentioned in a previous post, the TCNJ Wind Ensemble will be performing our new program Pulse at the College Band Director’s National Association’s northeastern conference in Boston in March. The hard work in putting together the concert will be showcased with Dr. David Vickerman at the helm in a performance given at TCNJ on February 28th, about a week before the CBDNA trip.

Additionally, I will be lucky enough to join the TCNJ Choirs in two upcoming performances: the third annual Hand-in-Hand concert at Lincoln Center, and the Purcellfest to be held at TCNJ. While I’ve been involved with the TCNJ choirs somewhat regularly throughout my career, I haven’t done so as a chorister since the spring of 2011. Needless to say, this is an exciting and welcome challenge.

At the Hand-in-Hand concert, we will be collaborating with Japanese high school students under the direction of the distinguished Maestro Atsushi Yamada in a performance of Carl Orff’s famous cantata, Carmina Burana. We are delighted about the fact that proceeds go to Eastern Japan’s long-term tsunami recovery efforts. Accompanying the choirs will be the Friends of Japan Orchestra, comprised of members of the New York City Opera Orchestra.

I’m particularly excited for the TCNJ Jazz Band’s Spring concert, featuring an all-Charles Mingus program. Under the direction of Dr. Gary Fienberg, the show will highlight the band’s guest soloist, Lewis Porter.

In the meantime, I will continue to begrudgingly brave the snow in the hopes that the sun will, indeed, come out tomorrow.

For information on these and more upcoming performances given by the TCNJ music department, you can visit: <>.

Blogger Bonus!
What was the most exciting thing you did over winter break?

Andrew Unger: Hmm… I did my best to see as many concerts as possible during this winter break. I would say that the most interesting one was Verdi’s Falstaff given at the Met (I was also lucky enough to see Renée Fleming perform in Dvořák’s Rusalka just two days before she was to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, but that was after winter break was already over).

Adventures in Pittsburgh: The Annual Meeting of the American Musicology Society by Andrew Unger

Senior Music major Andrew Unger recounts his recent trip to Pittsburgh for the American Musicological Society’s annual conference. Find out more about his experience, and how TCNJ’s Department of Music was represented at the conference!

On November 7-10 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, the American Musicological Society held its annual conference.

The AMS is an organization comprised of scholars and musicians from all over the country, ranging from ambitious graduate students in historical musicology and ethnomusicology to seasoned veterans of the field who teach at high-caliber universities. At the annual conference, over 100 papers are given by noted scholars and advanced graduate students alike, on topics ranging from 13th century motets, to Debussy, to the music of Star Trek.

I woke up at 4am, dreary-eyed and impossibly tired, on the morning of the 9th to catch a flight to the City of Bridges with my colleague Kevin Whitman. Post-arrival, the two of us enjoyed getting the most that we could out of our attendance at the conference.

Our main activity was hearing papers throughout Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, one of which being “Slonimsky’s Held,” given by TCNJ’s own Dr. Wayne Heisler as part of the panel, “Music, Jews, and Other.” Dr. Heisler also chaired the panel “Ballet and the Modern” and finished the final year of his term as a member of the Board of Directors. I was disappointed to miss a paper given by former TCNJ adjunct professor of music, Dr. Jessica Chisholm, as part of the “Sources and Scribes” panel.

Kevin and I were lucky enough to speak with professors and students from various universities and schools of music. We especially enjoyed having dinner with two TCNJ alumni, Jeremy Frusco and Tom Hanslowe from Florida University and Tufts University, respectively. Both Kevin and I happen to be pursuing graduate school for historical musicology, so these experiences were highly valuable for us in the midst of application season. Overall, this was a wonderful, eye-opening experience that I would recommend to anyone who has a keen interest – professional, academic, or otherwise – in any musicological or historiographical subject. I’m already looking forward to Milwaukee 2014!

End of Year Wrap Up by Andrew Unger

Music major Andrew Unger reflects back on the Spring 2013 semester’s music performances and concerts in his end of the year wrap up. Thank you for following the TCNJ School of the Arts & Communication blog! Congratulations to all graduating seniors and we hope you all have a great and safe summer break! More student blog posts to come this Fall 2013!

What an exhausting, valuable, and fun academic year it’s been. I’m writing this blog post on the morning after performing with the TCNJ Wind Ensemble under Dr. David Vickerman in Shadows, a concert which marks the culmination of a year of very diverse and engaging concerts showcased by the Music Department. With only one concert left – Just Because! by the TCNJ Choirs – the entire student body can look back on a year of which it can be quite proud.

The TCNJ orchestra, choirs, and bands have all worked tirelessly to enrich the campus community with music in whatever way they can. To be a part of this process has been extremely fulfilling, and I’m already looking forward to two more seasons of incredible concerts.

During the tumult of finals week and the conclusion of classes, it’s just as important to look back on these wonderful experiences as it is to study for said finals. As a student of the fine arts, end-of-semester performances are a channel for months of hard work to be converted into something extremely positive, and for that I am grateful. Thank you to the students and faculty of the music department for an awesome year, and I’m anticipating another great one very soon. After all, September is not so far away.

A farewell and reflection from Allison Gibbons, graduating Music major

Allison Gibbons, senior Music major, gives TCNJ her final farewell before graduation. See what Allison’s future plans are, as well as her meaningful advice as she reflects back on her experiences as an undergraduate student. It has certainly been a pleasure to feature Allison as a student blogger!!

Wow, what an incredible whirlwind of a semester it has been! Since writing my February blog post I have taught elementary and middle school music, auditioned at four graduate schools, earned my Kappa Delta Pi honor cord, interviewed for a teaching job, sung at Lincoln Center, performed in Lyric Theatre’s opera scenes program, sung in my final concert with the chorale, attended numerous recitals and ensemble performances, and turned twenty-two. As you may recall, I have become accustomed to living with a busy schedule (in fact, I would have it no other way), but this semester turned my life upside down. I am feeling exhausted, burnt out, ready to graduate, and ready for summer.

I came into this semester thinking that I would be attending graduate school next year pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance. I prepared as best I could for my auditions (see my February blog post), but it just wasn’t enough. Student teaching affected the way I was using my voice and the amount of practice time I had, and I got sick three times between the last week of January and the first week of March. None of my auditions went particularly badly, but none were the best singing I’ve done this year. The week of April first was a disheartening one as I was rejected from each and every school that I had auditioned for.

It happens to most people at some point, I suppose: you think you know exactly what your plan is and how your life will play out, but you get taken by surprise. What do you do? What is your next move? What is your Plan B?

No matter how hard it is to do, we need to cope with whatever bizarre circumstances life tosses our way. It can be stressful and upsetting, but it’s very important to be able to deal with these circumstances (and the emotions that may come with them) in a healthy way. Fortunately, I have a wonderful support system of friends, family, and even a few professors who helped me to make it through what would have been an otherwise extremely difficult time. I happen to be a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I am excited to take the next step in my journey; it just happens to be a different step than the one I had originally anticipated.

I am currently applying to quite a few teaching jobs, and I am hoping that I will find a position for the new school year this coming fall; In the meantime, I am looking forward to teaching at the performing and visual arts day camp at my high school this summer, which I attended not too many years ago. I know that wherever my life takes me after graduation, I plan to do what I have always done: work hard, do my best, and do whatever I do with passion, enthusiasm, and vigor.

My four years at TCNJ have taught me so much and have helped shape me into the person I am today, and I am so grateful for the experiences I have had and the relationships that have developed because four years ago I chose The College of New Jersey. I am proud of my achievements and how far I’ve come as a student, teacher, musician, and person. Farewell, TCNJ, and to everyone who helped make my undergraduate experience what it was: thank you!

Andrew Unger lets you in on great deals on professional music performance tickets!

Please welcome back our new student blogger Andrew Unger, who is about to let you in on some of the best deals for professional music performances right here in the TCNJ area! Read more about how you can even watch the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra perform on March 1st for just $10!

Andrew UngerAndrew Unger, Junior Music Major

Next Stop, Market East!

Location, location, location.

One of the many things I value about my school is its close proximity to artistically lively metropolitan areas. Music is all around us, and we have the privilege of having world-renowned orchestras, chamber groups, and soloists performing right across the pond -in New York, Philly, and even our own New Jersey- on a regular basis. Just thinking about the incredible opportunities I’ve had in the past few years sends shivers down my spine.

In the Spring of 2012, I took my little sister to the Kimmel Center to see my idol, Simon Rattle, conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in a rendition of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony, Webern’s 6 Pieces for Orchestra, and Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony. Just last semester, I saw the principal horn of the New York Philharmonic, Phil Myers, perform chamber music alongside TCNJ’s own Dr. Tomoko Kanamaru at Symphony Space in NYC. I also shook his hand and had a lovely one-sided conversation (I was too nervous to say a word) with him backstage following the concert. Soon after, I saw one of the inaugural concerts of the new music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a stupefying Verdi Requiem. This past January, I drove for five minutes to Trenton’s War Memorial to see an electrifying New Jersey Symphony performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, conducted by Jacques Lacombe. In the spring, I plan on visiting Princeton’s McCarter Theater to hear international piano soloist Mitsuko Uchida.

All of this and more is right under our noses! If you have a student ID, you can get rush tickets for as low as 8 dollars to see the Philly Orchestra. Why not?

Speaking of great deals, contact Joe Pagani at <> for information about 10 dollar tickets to see the New Jersey Symphony perform, among other things, Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on March 1st. If enough students participate, we will be provided with free bus transportation by the NJSO. Mark your calendar!

BLOGGER BONUS! We also asked our bloggers the following question. Check out Andrew’s response below!

What was the best or most exciting part of your winter break?

The most exciting part of my winter break was recording a rock song with a group of friends. Other than that, I enjoyed relaxing and spending time with my family.

Allison Gibbons gives advice on how to prepare for an audition…and how to handle a busy semester, too!

Allison Gibbons is a pro at juggling a hectic schedule. As she gets ready for graduation and graduate school auditions, Allison gives some advice on how to prepare yourself for an upcoming audition. Her helpful tips also apply to anyone trying to handle a busy semester! (Hey, that’s all of us!)

EDIT: The Lyric Theatre opera scenes performance will be on April 24th at 7 P.M. in the concert hall.

Welcome to Spring 2013, TCNJ! This semester is an exciting one for me; I am now several weeks into student teaching, which I am absolutely loving! It definitely keeps me busy, but if you have read anything I blogged last semester, youʼve probably figured out that no matter how busy I am, there are certain activities I just canʼt stay away from. Thus, this semester youʼll still find me at the TCNJ Chorale concerts (the most important being our Hand in Hand concert at Lincoln Center on March 22) as well as Lyric Theatreʼs opera scenes performance, which is EDIT: scheduled for April 24 at 7:00 PM in the concert hall). Before I know it, May will be upon us and Iʼll be donning my cap and gown (but shhh–donʼt say “the g word;” I might cry)! But before any of this happens, I do have something else to worry about, something that will ultimately decide the outcome of my post-collegiate life: graduate school auditions.

Preparing for auditions can be overwhelming; every school wants different materials prepared and has different policies regarding accompanists and placement tests; itʼs definitely stressful, but there are ways to make the experience less stressful than it has the potential to be. Here are just several actions that Iʼve been taking to make sure I donʼt lose my mind in the final days leading up to my four auditions:

1. Prioritize. If you have a lot of different repertoire to prepare, make yourself a list or chart of everything you need to practice; keep a record of the pieces youʼve worked on every day. Obviously some pieces may need more attention than others, but this will help you ensure that none of your rep is being neglected!

2. Stay organized. I applied to five schools and am auditioning at four of them, so it was important that I made sure to request different audition dates for each school whenever possible, especially when more than one school had dates that overlapped. Additionally, my planner is my saving grace; I know that writing things on my calendar keeps me in check and helps me make sure Iʼm getting things done efficiently and on time. Iʼm also the queen of to-do lists, which are a major source of stress relief for me. I find that writing down everything that I have to get done helps me to organize my thoughts so I can focus on one task at a time instead of getting flustered thinking about everything I need to accomplish.

3. Set aside time to relax. Itʼs easy to be super stressed when you are going crazy trying to balance a zillion different things (school, work, clubs, your personal life, etc.) in conjunction with practicing and audition preparation. One way to prevent yourself from having a complete breakdown (besides staying physically healthy, which is another blog topic for another day) is to designate some downtime each day. Do something you enjoy before you go to bed each night; try reading a book or watching television for thirty minutes (I personally enjoy number puzzles such as KenKen). Calm down and give  yourself some time to relax before your next day of insanity and chaos.

These are just a few of the things Iʼm doing to protect what little sanity I have left during my last semester here at The College. Many of these are things I do all the time (for example, I did all of these things last semester when I was preparing for Orfeo and my recital simultaneously), not just when auditions are approaching! Best of luck to everyone, whether youʼre preparing for an upcoming audition or just trying to make the best of a busy semester.

BLOGGER BONUS! We also asked our bloggers the following question. Check out Alli’s response below!

What was the best or most exciting part of your winter break?

Over winter break, I enjoyed spending time with my family and friends and relaxing after a hectic semester. It was also exciting to receive notification about passing prescreening at MSM, Mannes, and Peabody!