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!

Blogging the Brown Bag Series: Round Two by Katharine Callahan

Katharine Callahan, freshman Communication Studies major, reports on the variety of this semester’s Brown Bag Series. Find out more about these special guest presentations, and be sure to catch the last two of the semester in the Mayo Concert Hall, Friday, Nov. 15 and 22, 11:30am to 12:20pm! Bring your lunch and relax!

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Dr. Lucas Blair, Little Bird Games

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the brown bag on October eleventh, Little Bird Games, which was presented by Dr. Lucas Blair, as I had a schedule conflict with an event I had to attend. However, if you would like to learn more about Dr. Blair’s company, Little Bird Games, which specializes in making educational and therapeutic video, board, and card games, I have attached a link to the company’s website here.

Jeffry Cudlin, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes

Jeffry Cudlin, “Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes”

Finishing up the Brown Bags for the month of October was Jeffry Cudlin with his presentation entitled, Imposters, Interlocutors, and Dilettantes.  Mr. Cudlin is an art curator, art critic, and artist himself. He has written art critiques for the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and Sculpture Magazine, and worked previously as a curator for the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia. Mr. Cudlin is the first artist we have had present at TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series, and you can view his artwork and read about his process on his website. Mr. Cudlin’s work as an artist relies heavily on collaboration from other trusted artists, and generally takes the form of a parody that takes an awkward turn; especially in his works such as “The Request.”

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos's "Bounce"

TCNJ Wind Ensemble performing Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce”

Another significant work discussed during TCNJ’s Brown Bag Series was Dr. Stephen Gorbos’s “Bounce,” a traditional string-instrumental piece selected by two separate New York City orchestras to be preformed. In his presentation entitled Inside a Composer’s Studio: The Process of Revising a Piece, Dr. Gorbos explains that a traditional string ensemble has a homogeneous sound, while wind ensembles have a heterogeneous sound; for that reason, Dr. Gorbos decided to adapt his work to be played by a wind ensemble. Dr. Gorbos stated that wind ensembles are “a newly emerging orchestral style,” and he transformed his work with the help of TCNJ’s very own Professor David Vickerman. Professor Vickerman led the TCNJ Wind Ensemble in performing excerpts of Gorbos’s wind ensemble-adapted piece “Bounce” while Gorbos outlined the reconstructive process of adapting a string ensemble to a wind ensemble. The entire piece was performed later that night by the TCNJ Wind Ensemble for an audience in the Kendall Main Stage Theatre.

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

Geandy Pavón, Flying Che, oil on canvas

The next Brown Bag presentation was given by Geandy Pavón, and was entitled, Vanitas: The Political Still Life.  Pavón was born on the eastern half of the island of Cuba, and began his work as an artist very early in life. After he and his art troupe were expelled from every art university on the island, they took their controversial work to the streets of Cuba. When Pavón came to the United States, it was because Amnesty International granted him a visa on account of his artwork. Pavón focused mainly on his hyper-realistic oil on canvas paintings in his collection called “Wrinkled,” in which Pavón uses the symbolism of his art as a political statement. His collection “Vanitas” is reminiscent of the vanitas style artwork of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that uses skulls to symbolize the shortness of life.

Next week’s Brown Bag on Friday, November 15, This Trenton Life: Screening and Discussion, will be given by Dr. Susan Ryan, TCNJ Associate Professor of Communication Studies who collaborated with TCNJ students on this short documentary. The final Brown Bag on Friday, November 22, Constructing the Past and Shaping the Present in Appalachia Through Dance, will be presented by professors of dance from Radford Univeristy. For more information, please visit

Big Moves for the TCNJ Wind Ensemble by Andrew Unger

Senior Music major and TCNJ Wind Ensemble member Andrew Unger is back with his first blog post of the Fall 2013 semester. Check out the major performances that TCNJ student musicians have coming up for this academic year!

Andrew Unger

Andrew Unger, Senior Music Major

Someone attending a performance for the first time may not realize it, but the TCNJ Wind Ensemble is a diverse bunch. It’s like a musical flowerbed. Some, like music education majors and other music majors are well-represented, while singular students from various non-music departments provide valuable accents to the whole.

This year, senior music majors make up the majority; as many as 20 of us could be graduating this May. I’m one of them, and I think I can speak for us all when I say that we have done great things together as a class. These things include performances all over the tri-state area, premieres of pieces by notable composers, recording sessions, collaborations with professional performing groups, and many other exciting engagements and opportunities. We’ve come a long way.

Late this summer, we received even more exciting news. The TCNJ Wind Ensemble was accepted to perform in the March 2014 College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) Eastern Division Conference in Boston! Along with musicians from other high-level music schools like the New England Conservatory, we will be performing for conductors, bandleaders, educators, and high-profile musicians and musical personalities from all over the country. This will give us a chance to distinguish ourselves and our amazing faculty in ways that we have not been able to in years.

The French horn studio also received a piece of sensational news this summer. We, along with our incomparable teacher, Kathy Mehrtens, were invited to play as a horn ensemble at the Northeast Horn Workshop in March 2014. We will be traveling to Rowan University to show the horn world what we can do, and for that we’re as proud as we are grateful.

By this time next year our red dot on the map of America’s music schools will shine even brighter as more and more people learn about the awesome things we’ve done, and the trail we plan to blaze in the future. I have been confident in my class and my school since I first set foot in the music building, and these events will provide further validation of the tremendous value this school has for New Jersey’s musical community.

For more information on the CBDNA Eastern Division Conference and the Eastern Horn Workshop, you can check out these sites, respectively:

Stephanie Schoppe Returns from South Africa!

Stephanie Schoppe, a fifth-year senior majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Music, recently returned from her summer study abroad internship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. We are glad to welcome Stephanie back to TCNJ! Read all about Stephanie’s experiences–from bungee jumping to visiting South African schools to getting up-close with elephants–in her first blog post of the fall 2013 semester!

“It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.” – Gandhi

Hi there, everyone! Welcome back! Or welcome, if you’re new here! For those of you that are new to TCNJ, or if this is your first time reading the TCNJ School of the Arts and Communication blog, let me introduce myself. I’m Steph, and I’m a fifth-year senior (sometimes affectionately nicknamed “super senior”) Communication Studies major and Music minor. This is my second year writing for this blog and I’m so excited about this post especially.

TCNJ South Africa Crew at Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains

TCNJ South Africa Crew at Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains

In a post I did last semester I talked about being accepted for an internship in South Africa, and how I didn’t think I’d be able to do something like that with the struggles I’ve had academically in my earlier years here. Well this past month I did go to South Africa! I and eight other students, along with Communication Studies professor Dr. John Pollock, spent three weeks in Durban, South Africa. We were there to learn about the idea of “entertainment education” and how it can be used to educate people in South Africa about HIV/AIDS.  We watched various TV shows and commercials that have been very successful in persuading people to make healthy lifestyle choices (I highly recommend checking them out – one was a soap opera called Intersexions and another was an ad campaign called Scrutinize). We also got the opportunity to speak to some of the leading professors in the health communication field at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), as well as interact with Communication Studies students at the university.

Rachel (back) and Jabulani (front). Jabulani means "rejoice" in Zulu. We got to touch and feed them!

Rachel (back) and Jabulani (front). Jabulani means “rejoice” in Zulu. We got to touch and feed them!

But it wasn’t all just research and learning! We got to do some awesome and fun stuff, too! Some of us bungee jumped off of Moses Mabhida Stadium (where the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup was held), took surfing lessons, went shark diving, and rode the longest zip line in South Africa. One of the highlights of our trip was spending two nights at Bayete Zulu, a resort on the Hluhluwe (that’s pronounced shoo-shlew-eh) game reserve, where we went on four safaris and saw lions, rhinos, giraffes, warthogs, and so many more amazing and wild animals. While also at Hluhluwe, we got to touch and feed not one, but three elephants!

TCNJ South Africa Crew with students from Ekwazini Secondary School

TCNJ South Africa Crew with students from Ekwazini Secondary School

While Hluhluwe was indeed a highlight of the trip, the one moment that we realized “this is why we’re here and this is why we do what we do” came during the last week of the trip when we visited two secondary schools in Durban. We visited these schools with DramAIDe, an organization that uses the arts to educate youth about issues such as HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. The first school we went to, Ekwazini Secondary School, will probably be a day I won’t ever forget. To see a room of 8th and 9th graders speak so knowledgeably about what to do when facing gender-based violence at school and at home, to see their faces light up and to hear how grateful they were that we visited them, to not be able to leave the room because they all wanted to hug us and take pictures with us – I wish there was a stronger word for “inspiring”.

Going to South Africa was truly an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. It’s one that I’ll remember forever, because it’ll be really hard to forget since on our last day there I got a tattoo on my arm and I’m pretty sure those are permanent. And if you liked what you heard, if you want to experience something like this, you can! The trip will be happening again in summer 2014. Keep your eyes peeled for info from the Center for Global Engagement or from the Department of Communication Studies! There will be a study abroad fair on Wednesday, September 11th from 11:00am-2:00pm on Alumni Grove (between Eickhoff Hall and the Library) and we’ll be there! Until then, enjoy some photos from my trip and be jealous. And again, welcome back and good luck this year!

View of Durban, South Africa from the beach

View of Durban, South Africa from the beach

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.