It was not until senior Aaron Coe stepped on stage for his final performance that he realized it would be his last time performing with the Seattle Pacific Wind Ensemble.
Coe, an engineering major who has been performing with many SPU bands since his freshman year, said that he was so preoccupied by his final projects for his major that he did not understand how momentous an occasion this concert would be for himself and his fellow graduating seniors.
For Coe and other seniors, this feeling was all too tangible at the final wind ensemble concert of the year, held Friday, May 11, in the First Free Methodist Church.
“The realization that it was my last concert came first with a feeling of surprise,” Coe said.
“Then some sentimentality, and then finally a feeling of liberation — a feeling of the open road ahead of me and the endless possibilities therein.”
As the Seattle Pacific Wind Ensemble closed their yearlong theme of the exploration of female composers, students prepared themselves for what would be their final chance of the 2017-2018 academic year to accomplish their musical goals.
Accompanied by the Greater Puget Sound Flute Ensemble, the Bear Creek Middle School Band and a few featured performers, the Seattle Pacific Wind Ensemble honored the group’s five graduating seniors in their final performance.
“Wind ensemble has been a great anchor for me while at SPU — while other classes come and go, and are tumultuous in between, band is a ‘home room,’” Coe said.
“Nowhere else on campus will you find a group even remotely as committed to a common goal without any ulterior interests,” he said.
The night was packed not only with exciting performances from musicians of all ages, but also with the heartfelt farewells towards the graduating class of 2018.
To open the night’s performances was the Greater Puget Sound Flute ensemble playing “Eleanor Rigby” in the balcony of First Free Methodist under the direction of Sandra Saathoff.
After their rendition of the Beatles classic, Saathoff directed her ensemble through the swing classic from Porgy & Bess, “Summertime,” by George Gerwish.
Following their performance was the Bear Creek Middle School Band. The band came to SPU for the day to attend a class with Helseth and then break off into sectionals to work on the pieces they performed at the concert with SPU students.
Conducted by Kelsey Jobst, who recently received her masters in education from Northwest University, the band of talented middle schoolers performed four songs, the first two being “The Great Escape: Concert March” composed by Elmer Bernstein and “Shepherd’s Hey” by Percy Grainger.
Their third piece, “Tears of Arizona: Pearl Harbor Remembered,” composed by Brian Balmages, serves as both a memorial piece referencing the oil that still comes to the surface from the vessel sunk in Pearl Harbor and as a tribute to Hawaiian music.
Their final song, “Cumberland Cross,” composed by Carl Strommen, is a piece near and dear to the hearts of the students performing, according to their conductor Jobst.
After a brief intermission, the main draw of the night, the SPU Wind Ensemble, prepared for their final performance of the year. The ensemble played six songs, each very unique and challenging to the band in its own way.
First came “Symphony No. 1 The Lord of the Rings” composed by Johan de Meij, a dramatic yet appropriate opening to the second act of the concert.
Then came “Elegy” by John Barnes Chance, a somber yet unpredictable song memorializing its creator, who passed away not long after it was finished.
Third to come was a swing piece by Morton Gould titled “Pavanne,” which was intentionally misspelled so that the phonetic spelling would help the audience to pronounce the name of the piece correctly.
To continue, the exploration of female composers performed a piece by Carolyn Bremer called, “Early Bird.” This used the influences of baseball — the roar of the crowd and the cracking of the bat — to construct an exciting, yet nostalgic piece of music.
Second to last was, “Field Ayres,” composed by Douglas Richard, which featured percussion instruments from the civil war. Four lucky members of the band got to stand at the front of the stage and play percussion instruments — courtesy of Dan Avers — that were the precursor to what is now a classic snare drum sound.
Finally came “March Intercollegiate,” a song that is a staple to graduation ceremonies around the nation. This piece was composed by Charles Ives and was very appropriate, given the circumstances.
Right before their second to last song, Helseth paused the performances to take a moment to honor the graduating seniors in the wind ensemble. For the six graduating seniors, five who performed and one who had already completed the year, the night consisted of a ceremony akin to someone being honored in the military.
Because of Helseth’s background in the military, his reconstruction of the Challenge Coin was a personal way to thank and salute the seniors. The Challenge Coin is traditionally given to prove membership of an organization.
Going on his fifth year of using the coin to celebrate the seniors, according to Helseth the “Band Coins” represent the students’ home in the wind ensemble for years to come, even after they have moved on from the school.
The five seniors: Nicholas Burton, Coe, Sonya Crocker, Melissa Del Rio, Alexandria Renault and Shannon Wolfe performed, while Samantha Brewer, who graduated winter quarter, sat as a member of the audience.
The seniors were called to the front of the stage and lined up while their director spoke their praises. Following his explanation of the Band Coin, Helseth shook the hands of the students, passed onto them their coins, and hugged them before they left the front of the stage to return to their places in the band.