Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Civic Symphony Shares a Virtual Performance

It doesn’t have the same elegant backdrop as the stained-glass windows of Ford Chapel, and it doesn’t enjoy the same acoustics as Shafer Auditorium in the Henderson Campus Center. But the 24 members of the Allegheny College Civic Symphony sound heavenly as they share their latest performance from their individual workspaces and parlors.

Dr. Jennifer Dearden
Dr. Jennifer Dearden

The Civic Symphony is sharing the first of what promises to be several performances emanating from the Music Department of Allegheny College during the remainder of the fall semester. The ensemble performs “High Rise” by Adrian Gordon, which is available to watch above or on the Allegheny College YouTube channel.

It is a relatively new work for string orchestra (2014), and Jennifer Dearden, director of the Civic Symphony, chose the piece “in part because it incorporates some jazz/funk elements, which is something that many collegiate string players have not yet had the opportunity to try. And while it is important to give students the experience playing ‘standard’ orchestral music by familiar names like Beethoven or Haydn, it is equally important that student performers and audiences alike get to know and appreciate music outside the confines of 18th and 19th century Europe.”

With some students studying remotely and others on campus, it has presented a challenge for rehearsing and arranging music, Dearden said.

“Each ensemble has done things a bit differently. The orchestra, normally 50-plus students playing strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, has reduced down to string instruments only, and so all the in-person members are able to rehearse together on the Shafer stage,” she said. “The Wind Symphony and Jazz Band meet in rotating small groups, and the choral ensembles are meeting entirely on Zoom. Remote students in instrumental ensembles have used specialized software, called SmartMusic, to submit work and still participate in the ensemble, playing the same repertoire as the students rehearsing in person.”

Coordinating all the individual feeds from the musicians can be tricky work. “The largest challenge we had was that the first attempt at recording ‘High Rise’ just didn’t work — the individual files weren’t lining up and we had to record them again using a different technique,” said Dearden. “That was an especially difficult thing to have to ask the students to do, but they stepped up and the resulting product was worth the extra effort. The Department as a whole has had to rethink other things like instrument storage and how students can use practice rooms safely.”

Still to come this fall?

“The orchestra will have at least two, hopefully three, more videos released. Next up will be a string version of Edward Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations. The other ensembles all have recordings at various stages of the process right now; some ensembles will release audio recordings rather than video,” said Dearden.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio Releases CD, Shares Virtual Performance

The Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio, of which Dr. Jennifer Dearden, associate professor of music and chair of the Allegheny College Music Department, is a founding member, has announced the recent release of its first album, “Expeditions.”

The trio also consists of two other music professors from the northwest Pennsylvania area — Dr. Timothy Winfield of Westminster College and Dr. Andy Erb of Grove City College.

The Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio

Since its founding in 2015, the trio has been dedicated to exposing a variety of audiences to a vast array of music, both in live performance and now via their album. They are also committed to commissioning and performing new music that will advance the genre of trumpet trio within the musical community.

The trio formed in the fall of 2015. Dearden says: “Myself and two other collegiate trumpet professors in western Pennsylvania were each searching for a creative way to present a recital to our respective college communities. The collaboration was originally meant to be for a single recital, but it was both a professional challenge and a great deal of fun, so we decided to keep it going, and the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio was born.”

The group has performed at numerous venues around western Pennsylvania, and performed one of the works — “Nuvens de Junho” by Fernando Deddos, which was written for the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio and appears on their new album — at the 2019 International Trumpet Guild Conference in Miami, Florida.

The COVID-19 outbreak has prevented the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio from having a more traditional recital to celebrate the release of “Expeditions,” so instead they produced a brief virtual ensemble video, showcasing one of the tracks on the album, which you can access by clicking here.

The trio recorded the tracks for the CD some time ago, and all the post-production for the CD was also complete before the pandemic. “The video, however, was created last month, with each of us in our separate homes, playing our own parts,” says Dearden. “We did not need to rehearse for this particular project because it was a piece we knew very well and have performed several times. We played with a click track, which isn’t heard in the video, to keep us all playing the same tempo, but otherwise the three videos are just put together through the magic of editing into a composite product.”

Physical CDs are available now by going to or, and a digital version will be available in the coming weeks.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Students Prank Their Favorite Professor

Many professors have great relationships with their students, but Lowell Hepler, chair of the Allegheny Music Department, fosters healthy ties with students for their entire time at Allegheny.

Many students look to “Doc” as they call him, as a mentor. Hepler also knows how to take a joke — something students have capitalized on lately on April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2018, members of the Allegheny Wind Symphony secretly distributed music to the “Super Mario Bros.” theme song. While Hepler was prepared to conduct a symphony, he was surprised to be met with cartoon video game music. Thus, a tradition was born pranking Hepler every April Fools’ Day.

Which one is the real “Doc?”

The plan for 2019 was a bit more complex, as it required a lifesize cutout of Hepler. The plan was as follows: Take a full body photograph of Hepler, submit it to a lifesize cardboard cutout company, and move the cardboard version of the beloved conductor into the ensemble. After Hepler recognized his own face in the crowd of his 90-plus students (all of whom he knows personally) a “take a picture with Doc” day commenced. The twist? Students took their photos with the cutout version of Hepler.

What does it take for students to be so comfortable with their professor that they can prank him? According to Katherine Hubert, a senior at Allegheny, “The fact that he’s a friend and a mentor. He always says that ‘he doesn’t get mad, he gets even.’ I’m still waiting for him to get even for last year.”

To students, Hepler is more than just a professor; he is a mentor, a confidant, and most importantly, a friend. That said, Hepler’s cheerful personality and interactive teaching style allows for far more than just pranks. It opens doors for students of any skill level to develop a love for music.

Hepler has spent 45 years at Allegheny. He works alongside his wife, Dr. Julie Hepler. It is often said that the Allegheny Music Department is like a family. These two take that in stride. “Students are the very reason I exist,” Hepler said. “It’s the reason faculty are here. … Students depend on faculty and faculty depend on students” to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship he holds with students.

Hepler never forgets the true reason he is here–students. In fact, the student’s are Hepler’s most cherished part of his job. He loves the “interaction with the students” and “the personal relationships you can have,” he said.

Clearly, Hepler is more than just a professor, he is an integral part of the Allegheny community. His caring, fun-loving personality allows students to interact with him in and out of the classroom, whether that be as a mentor, or the target in a years’ long prank war. The past two April Fools’ Day were a success for the Allegheny Wind Symphony. It will be interesting to see their plans for 2020 unfold.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Choral Ensembles to Present 2018 Spring Concert

The Allegheny College Choral Ensembles, featuring more than 50 students and 35 community members under the direction of Professor James Niblock, will present their annual spring concert on Saturday, April 14, at 3:15 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium. The concert is free and open to the public.

The Chorus Choir will open the concert with a movement from Vivaldi’s Gloria: “Domine Fili Unigenite.” They will also feature Richard Hundley’s “Come Ready and See Me,” an arrangement adapted from Hundley’s well-known composition for solo voice and piano.

Chamber Choir will continue with “In Pace In Idipsum” by Thomas Tallis, which has three sections of polyphony separated by two sections of plainsong. Carol Niblock will then direct “She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways” by Albert Lee Carr, and James Niblock will join in the bass section. The piece is a musical setting of the William Wordsworth poem.

Women’s Ensemble will close the first half of the program with a piece by Allegheny alumnus Professor Jeffery L. Webb ’98, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Webb is director of Choral Activities at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and last summer joined the Chamber Choir on its tour to New Zealand.

After intermission, the Men’s Ensemble will feature two Irish pieces, beginning with “Down by the Salley Gardens,” a traditional folk tune. Following Matthew Harris’ “A Red, Red Rose,” they will complete their set with “Whup! Jamboree,” a sea shanty by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw.

The College Choir will perform “Choose Something Like a Star” by Randall Thompson, the final movement of his composition “Frostiana.” Thompson held conducting residencies at Allegheny twice in the 1970s during W.S. Wright North’s tenure as choral director. They will also present “The Ghost of Molly Maguire” by Gene Glickman, a piece about the Molly Maguires, a 19th century Irish labor activist group that later had a presence in eastern Pennsylvania.

As a finale, all five choirs will combine to perform a setting of the Londonderry Air, “Danny Boy.” They will close the concert with a famous South African song, the unofficial national anthem, “Tshotsholoza,” arranged by Jeffery L. Ames.

Professor Emeritus Ward Jamison and Kevin Dill will accompany the choirs on piano. All current members and alumni of the choirs are invited to the stairwell at the end of the concert for the traditional singing of the “Nunc Dimittis” and “Alma Mater Beatissima.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Choral Ensembles Winter Concert

The Allegheny College Choral Ensembles will perform their bi-annual free concert at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, December 2, in Shafer Auditorium. The Allegheny College Chorus, Chamber Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Men’s Ensemble and College Choir, will each perform several works in a variety of styles, from madrigals to sea shanties, featuring seven languages in the repertoire. The concert is free and open to the public.

The College Chorus, including students, Allegheny faculty, and Meadville community members, will begin the afternoon program. They will open with “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” by Josef Haydn from Heiligmesse, accompanied by Dill on piano, as well as “Early One Morning,” an arrangement of an Old English song by Frank Ahrold.

The Chamber Choir will then perform, showcasing pieces such as “Dixit Maria” by Hans Leo Hassler, which epitomizes late-Renaissance choral writing. They will finish with “Salmo 150,” composed by Ernani Aguiar, which features Latin-American dance rhythms.

To finish the first half of the program, the Women’s Ensemble will dive into the Russian language with “Chorus of Peasant Girls” from Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin.” They will round out their set with the world premier of “Mi Ze Hidlik,” a Haukkah poem by a 20th century rabbi, paired with a lilting Israeli folk melody, and arranged by Kevin Dill.

The Men’s Ensemble will open the second half by performing “God Rest Ye Merry.” They will also feature “Karitas Habundat,” in the style of liturgical chant, as well as a sea shanty titled “A-Roving,” arranged by well-known conductor Roger Wagner, which will feature baritone Ken Kutzer ’18.

The College Choir will then perform “Citadel Hill” accompanied by Ward Jamison on piano, a boisterous folk song from Nova Scotia in a recent arrangement by award-winning composer Mark Sirett. They will then demonstrate their command of the German language with “Der Gerechte Kommt Um,” a poignant a cappella setting of verses from the book of Isaiah by baroque composer Johann Kuhnau.

To conclude the concert, all will converge on stage in a choir of 101 voices to perform two songs, conducted by Jamison – “Welcome Yule” by Williametta Spencer, and “Hallelujah, Amen” from Judas Maccabeus by George Frideric Handel. Dill will accompany the ensembles on piano.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Civic Symphony

The Allegheny College Civic Symphony with 43 students and the Wind Symphony with 83 students will perform on Sat., Nov. 18, and Sun., Nov. 19, respectively, beginning at 3:15 p.m. each day in Shafer Auditorium. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Civic Symphony, Wind Symphony to Perform

The Allegheny College Civic Symphony with 43 students and the Wind Symphony with 83 students will perform on Sat., Nov. 18, and Sun., Nov. 19, respectively, beginning at 3:15 p.m. each day in Shafer Auditorium. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

The Civic Symphony is led by Dr. Jennifer Dearden and will feature Allegheny alumnus and music faculty member Tom Leech ’86 as a horn soloist. The Wind Symphony is led by Professor of Music Lowell Hepler,  who is also director of bands at Allegheny College.
The Civic Symphony Orchestra performance consists of Symphony No. 101 “The Clock” by Franz Joseph Haydn, “Horn Concerto No. 1 in D” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (featuring horn soloist Leech, adjunct music faculty), “Two Songs Without Words” by Gustav Holst, “Perpetuum” by Paul Barker, and “City of Steel” by Doug Spata.

The Wind Symphony begins with “Mayflower Overture” by Ron Nelson. Following will be “Of Sailors and Whales” by Francis McBeth, “October” by Eric Whitacre, “March des Parachutistes Belges” by Pierre Leemans, “Vesuvius” by Frank Ticheli’s, “Keystone Post March” by Olan Butt, a former teacher of Dr. Ronald Stitt, assistant director of bands at Allegheny. Stitt wrote the arrangement, and he will conduct the performance.

There also will be an “Overture on Themes” from the “The Wizard of Oz.” Featured melodies will include “Ding, Dong, The Witch is Dead,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” “If I Only had a Brain,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles to Perform

Allegheny’s Instrumental Chamber Ensembles will perform their biannual concert in Ford Memorial Chapel on Thursday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

There are six groups performing: the Woodwind Quartet, Trumpet Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Saxophone Ensemble, Clarinet Ensemble, and Brass Quintet. Each ensemble works with one of three faculty coaches, either Bronwell Bond, Jennifer Dearden, or Julie Hepler. Bond will serve as conductor of the Flute Ensemble for the performance.

The groups will perform a variety of music from composers such as J.C. Bach and Giuseppe Verdi, to Mozart and the Beatles. Together, they have 29 students involved, and two community members. A few students participate in more than one ensemble.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Presents First ‘Unusual Combinations’ Piano Competition

Allegheny College will present its first biennial “Unusual Combinations” Piano Competition on Saturday, Nov. 11.

The competition, sponsored by Kawai America Corporation, features top high school student pianists from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Two of the judges, Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou of the New Muse Piano Duo, will kick off the competition with a free recital entitled “Music of the Future: 21st Century Piano Music” on Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel.

On Saturday, the final round of the competition is a free recital open to the public at 3 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel, featuring the top six to eight performers from preliminary rounds held in the morning. In addition to sponsoring the first prize cash award, Kawai has also loaned a Shigeru Sk-6 piano for use in the competition and the rest of the academic year.

Savvidou previously served as assistant professor of Piano Pedagogy at the University of Michigan, and now as wellness coordinator and global engagement advisor for Michigan’s School of Music, Theater & Dance. Savvidou utilizes Laban Movement Analysis, yoga, and creative movement as part of her teaching strategy to improve alignment as well as deepening expressivity in performance.

Kuuskoski is the interim chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship and Leadership and director of the EXCEL Lab at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Prior to his tenure at Michigan, he served as director of Entrepreneurship and Community Programs at the University of Missouri School of Music, where he designed and implemented all aspects of their new Music Entrepreneurship program.

Together, Kuuskoski and Savvidou perform as the New Muse Piano Duo, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The ensemble is dedicated to commissioning and performing newly composed works for four-hands and two pianos, with particular interest in exploring the piano in its fullest capacity as a string, percussion, and keyboard instrument.

“Both exemplify the idea of ‘Unusual Combinations’ in their own careers, which is why I asked them to judge the inaugural competition,” said Douglas Jurs, assistant professor of music and piano, who organized the competition. “They have both coupled diverse interests in combination with music to forge successful careers that encompass performance, teaching, and creative entrepreneurship.”

Kuuskoski will be in residence on Friday to work with Allegheny students interested in pursuing a profession in the creative or performing arts. He will hold an interactive workshop on Friday at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center room 206, called “Shooting for the Moon: Reversing Career Assumptions to Achieve the Impossible.” The presentation explores a step-by-step process for inspiring students to identify one big career goal, reverse assumptions about that goal, and convert what may seem like an “impossible” idea into a realistic, and potentially innovative, pilot project. Students interested in pursuing a profession in the creative or performing arts, as well as students interested in pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors after graduation, are especially encouraged to attend. Refreshments will also be served during the workshop.

On Saturday, Savvidou will hold an additional optional interactive workshop called “Move Your Way Through Stress” from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Wise Center Dance Studio. It is open to competitors, parents, and the Allegheny community. Savvidou recommends participants wear clothes they can move in.

Savvidou and Kuuskoski will be joined as competition jurors on Saturday by Allegheny’s Alec Chien, the third judge. Certainly no stranger to Meadville audiences, Chien first came to prominence upon winning the gold medal at the 1986 Gina Bachauer Competition, beginning an intercontinental career. After years of traveling for concerts across the world, he came to Allegheny to teach as artist-in-residence and professor of music. Retiring in 2016, Chien  continues to be active as a performer, teacher, and Meadville community advocate.

Competitors will perform at least two contrasting pieces memorized from two different composers, lasting from between six and 12 minutes. There are two rounds, the preliminary round in the morning, and the final round a recital in the late afternoon that will be live-streamed online. There are over $10,000 in prizes and scholarships offered, including a $1,000 First Prize, and several Allegheny Music Department Scholarships.

The competitors also have the option of entering to win the Unusual Combinations Prize by either writing a short essay or presenting a visual, which show how music and another personal passion intersect in the student’s life. Faculty from Allegheny will judge the entries.

The Unusual Combinations Prize and competition finalists will be announced at 2 p.m. Saturday, prior to the final round of performances at 3 p.m.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Jazz Band to Perform Annual Concert

The Allegheny College Jazz Band will perform their annual fall concert on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3:15 p.m. in the lobby of the college’s Henderson Campus Center. The concert is free and open to the public.

The program repertoire includes, “The Way You Look Tonight,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “The Chicken,” “The Way We Were,” “Big Swing Face,” “Groovin’ Hard,” “How Deep is the Ocean,” “Spinning Wheel,” and “Cheesecake.”

Instrumental soloists and a vocal soloist will be showcased.

Prior to the Jazz Band performance, the Mallet Ensemble will perform, beginning at 2:30 p.m.. Performance repertoire includes “Rainbows,” “Evening Prayer,” “Little Fugue in G Minor,” and “The William Tell Overture.”

Both performing ensembles are under the direction of Stephen F. Corsi.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research