Typically, Northwestern’s symphonic band trades off with A capella choir each year in going on a tour during spring break. It’s a rotation of domestic and international band and choir tours synchronized in a three-year schedule. Two years ago, the band flew to Spain; the last year was a weekend of local tours.
This year was the year for a larger domestic tour. The former plan was to spend time in the New Mexico and Arizona areas with a spotlight on a high school band from New Mexico that had played with them on tour in spring of 2020. Yet, due to COVID-19 restrictions, plans have changed.
Local is the keyword for the tour. Current school locations on the tour catalog include Alton, George-Little Rock, Orange City, Sheldon, Sibley, Sioux Center and a larger concert in Omaha. While the band is in Omaha, they will be volunteering their time at the Omaha Open Door Mission—a Christian organization that helps those who are homeless.
Since the primary purpose behind ensemble musical tours is recruitment, the band will be recording their songs this year on the first Saturday of spring break. Director Angela Holt has invited a sound engineer to professionally record each song in this spring’s repertoire. Once there is an appropriate number of takes, the sound engineer will work on post-producing and mastering for the final product.
For those who cannot hear the band on the recording or simply want to support their peers, there will be a home concert on March 12 at 7 p.m. after the tour. In the spirit of March, the theme is March Madness.
There will be standard work by Malcolm Arnold to celebrate the anniversary of his 100th birthday. Additionally, pieces by Alfred Reed and Eric Whitacre will be showcased. March Madness will show up in the form of interspersed marches, a traditional genre of sporting tunes.
Senior music and secondary education major, Joel Van Peursem, will be conducting one of the marches. “The Washington Post March” by John Phillip Sousa features fast woodwind runs and heavy brass sections that come together with a lively low brass melody that everyone can clap along with. Holt knew of Van Peursem’s love for marches and Sousa specifically and offered the opportunity to conduct.
“I am super excited and honored to be asked by Dr. Holt to conduct this piece,” said Van Peursem. “I am definitely a little nervous, but I cannot wait to perform it!”
All band members are grateful to share their love of music and God through these songs and their tour.
Cassandra Koel, a senior band member, said, “Of course there is a part of me that would have loved to go down south and have a traditional tour, but this has been a year of reveling in the small blessings of life.”
Van Peursem also reflects on the blessings of this year’s tour.
“Most colleges around the world haven’t had this opportunity because of COVID,” said Van Peursem. “But I am so thankful we have the ability to spread out and still make music to communicate to others and to show them God’s love through our playing.”
As the band prepares for thier tour, Holt encourages them to focus on the positives.
She said, “Even though this season has been very challenging, it offers more unique opportunities to reflect on how amazing our Heavenly Father is and to allow Him to show us creative ways to continue to serve Him, to love Him and to shine His light.”