NMSU branding

New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center


Search News Center Articles





NMSU Wind Symphony among few chosen to perform at Kennedy Center

Sometimes, it?s okay to toot your own horn.


Photo of a bassoonist in a light blue shirt, with the conductor in the background.
Christopher Hughes, director of instrumental studies and associate professor of music at New Mexico State University, conducts the Wind Symphony during a rehearsal in the music building on the NMSU campus.
Photo of French horn players
Musicians in New Mexico State University?s Wind Symphony rehearse in preparation for their performance at the Sousa Band Festival, taking place in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., this April. (NMSU photo by Dana Beasley)

New Mexico State University?s Wind Symphony has been selected to represent the southwestern region of the United States during the 2016 Sousa Band Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., this April.

The group was selected, through audio and video submissions, to be one of only four ensembles nationwide to honor the late composer John Philip Sousa at the festival.

?I think this invitation and performance is a great honor and privilege for our students,? said Lon Chaffin, head of the Department of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences. ?They are a talented group of musicians and are working very hard. They will represent NMSU and our music department well.?

Selected through audition, the Wind Symphony incorporates 50 of NMSU?s top undergraduate and graduate student musicians. The ensemble, which frequently tackles challenging pieces, has performed under guest conductors, given world premieres for new music and had pieces written specifically for them.

?I?m so proud of these students,? said Christopher Hughes, director of bands at NMSU and conductor of the Wind Symphony. ?They?ve worked so hard in the giving of their time, energies and talents, and their growth has just been phenomenal.?

With this enthusiasm and dedication, the ensemble will soon polish their credentials with a performance in a world-class concert hall.

?I?m tremendously excited for them to have the opportunity to play in the Kennedy Center,? Hughes said. ?We have a great time playing here, don?t get me wrong, but that?s something that?s going to be moving in a very different way.?

The Kennedy Center, situated on the Potomac River, serves as home to the National Symphony Orchestra and as a public memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The hall is ranked with other prestigious performing arts venues, such as Carnegie Hall in New York City.

?Being able to experience something like this is a great privilege and an exciting way to show that New Mexico State University is a fantastic school with amazing musicians and professors,? said Kayla Ruben, an undergraduate clarinetist in the Wind Symphony, who is double majoring in music education and music performance.

Referred to as the ?March King,? one of Sousa?s most recognizable compositions is ?The Stars and Stripes Forever,? which is the country?s national march. To pay homage, all of the groups performing at the festival have been asked to prepare one selection composed by Sousa.

?He actually wrote a march called the ?New Mexico March,? so we?re going to take New Mexico to Washington, D.C.,? Hughes said.

Over the four-day stay, the Wind Symphony will participate in a conducting clinic with Col. Arnald D. Gabriel, who served as commander and conductor of the celebrated U.S. Air Force Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Singing Sergeants from 1964-1985. The ensemble will also perform at a high school in Virginia, and will have the opportunity to visit national monuments, museums and important Sousa sites around the district.

This achievement is one of the many endeavors that demonstrate the recent success of the NMSU Wind Symphony. Later this semester, the ensemble has plans to record brand new music by emerging Chinese composers that Hughes met while teaching overseas. The CD, with performance credits to the NMSU Wind Symphony, will be distributed throughout China.

?What we?re trying to do is build a whole profile that includes us on a national level,? Hughes said. ?We want to make sure that our students, when they graduate from NMSU, can be on par and competitive with other people that are graduating from other universities and competing for the same jobs, either teaching or performing.?

While the music department is able to cover some costs for the trip to Washington, D.C., students in NMSU?s Wind Symphony are fundraising to cover the remaining expenses. To make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/j5jr5thw.

For more information on the Sousa Band Festival, visit sousabandfestival.org.