The School of Music Tours Atlanta

The Fall semester of 2018 was an unusual experience for many of the School of Music’s ensembles. Combined, they perform at a clip of almost a concert per week during a semester, averaging a total of 18 concerts. Ranging from Baroque chamber choral music to classic rock hits, the School’s ensembles provide free entertainment to Georgia Tech’s students while providing a creative outlet to the students that perform in them. Their music is a fixture on campus. Instead of generally playing on campus, many of them ended up going on a tour of different venues around Atlanta.

The Ferst Center for the Arts was closed for renovations for most of the semester, leaving numerous ensembles within the School suddenly without their primary venue for their concerts. Luckily, it’s no strange thing to a musician to have to travel for gigs, and the ensembles quickly adapted to this new challenge. Looking elsewhere within the Atlanta area, the ensemble directors quickly found willing hosts for their music at other colleges in the city.

The Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra performing at Bailey Hall for their "Music in Motion" concert.

The Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra found a home for their music at Bailey Hall, located twenty miles up I-75 on Kennesaw State University’s campus. Transporting a full orchestra of students and their instruments proved to be a daunting task, along with adjusting to the acoustics of a new venue on the day of a performance. But their conductor and director, Chaowen Ting, was up to the challenge.

“The biggest challenge for players, when we move around for various performance venues, is to adjust very quickly. Each space has its own acoustic character, and we have to change the way we play our instruments accordingly to be able to balance the entire ensemble. This ability requires very careful listening and good understanding of ensemble skills. It was difficult at first as our musicians are not used to doing so, but we soon learned how to respond to different halls quickly,” says Ting.

The Orchestra performed at KSU twice. The first concert was “Music in Motion”, a collaboration with MorningStar Dance Academy to provide choreography along with a choice of selections from Bizet, Chabrier, and Mozart. The second was called “The Symphonies No. 5”, focusing on the 5 symphony created by composers Beethoven, Mahler and Shostakovich. They also took the opportunity to join forces with the Georgia Tech Chamber Choir, collaborating on the music of Bach, Beethoven and Bartok for “The Great 3 Bs” at Roswell United Methodist Church. Performing in local Atlanta churches is not unusual for the choirs, but it was a rare feat for the Orchestras.

Benjamin Diden, the director for the Symphonic Band and Concert Band, was similarly without a space for his ensembles. But as the Assistant Director of Bands, the logistics of transporting a full band and their instruments was not an unusual obstacle for him to solve. He travels with the Georgia Tech Marching Band through the football season in the Fall semester, and the Pep Band in Spring. He chose a couple of different venues. The Symphonic and Concert bands performed at Bailey Hall in KSU as well, playing music by composers such as Leonard Bernstein and Percy Grainger.

The Georgia Tech Symphonic Band performing at Kopleff Recital Hall for their "Light and Dark" concert.

But his bands also performed at Kopleff Recital Hall at Georgia State University, just a few miles down the road from Georgia Tech’s main campus. The location was closer to home, but the logistical challenges of playing downtown were magnified in comparison to playing in Kennesaw. Between getting the word out on where they were playing, passing along specific instructions for parking in downtown Atlanta, and finding a way to get every student in the band to the venue, Diden had plenty of work on his hands beyond simply conducting the bands at show time.

“Traveling off campus for concerts can present quite a challenge for the bands, especially in regards to large instruments, like percussion and tubas, but fortunately, we were able to use some of the equipment from Kennesaw State and Georgia State. Many of our students are also involved in athletic bands, so they are used to traveling to performances and they handled it extremely well,” says Diden.

Despite all of the obstacles the ensembles faced during the semester, the quality of the music performed was still held to the same high standard and caliber the ensemble directors have come to expect from their students. Nevertheless, the ensembles are looking forward to returning to campus for the Spring semester.