Music Series: UI Orchestra


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Despite a rough year and a half, the UI orchestra department is in high spirits.

Over that time, UI music students and faculty have made plenty of adjustments as they grappled with the aftermath of the 2008 flood, which destroyed their buildings and Hancher Auditorium.

They’ve bounced from one side of campus to the other, lugging heavy instruments on cramped Cambuses daily.

“It can be a hassle sometimes,” senior violinist Preston Krauska said. “Sometimes, I’ll have a lesson downtown and then have to be at the old Museum of Art in 10 minutes, and it’s just impossible.”

Director of Orchestral Studies William LaRue Jones said the department’s four ensembles have played concerts in just about every facility, from performances in the IMU to Macbride Auditorium to the former St. Thomas More Church, now known as the Riverside Recital Hall.

“The difficulty is sometimes for the audience to have any kind of consistency,” Jones said.

Despite these setbacks, students and faculty look forward to the state Board of Regent’s Feb. 4 decision on where the new Hancher and new music building will be built. As the proposal stands, the auditorium will remain west of the river, and the music facilities will be constructed near the intersection of Clinton and Burlington Streets.

“Our hope is that with new facilities, people will also be eager to come to them,” Jones said. “One of the good things about [Hancher] being downtown is the potential of drop-by attendees — rather than going to a restaurant or a bar, they’ll decide to check out Hancher in the same way they’d check to see what’s at the movies.”

Although the orchestra-department members will be happy to again have a home base, Jones said, most would prefer that Hancher and the music facilities be built at the same location.

“I feel that it’ll be better if we were together,” he said. “If we’re in the same location and the same facility, students will have much more of a likelihood to go to concerts that are not their own.”

Aside from location inconsistencies, orchestra-department students also wish non-music majors knew more about their efforts.

“I have friends who don’t really listen to classical music, and when they came to concerts, they really enjoyed it and thought it was cool,” Krauska said. “There have been a lot of times when people are shocked about the things that we do.”

Jones, who has held the director position since 1997, agreed the orchestra’s repertoire is both impressive and enjoyable for the general population. He encouraged the university community to attend the Symphony Orchestra’s next President’s Day-theme concert, Feb. 17 in the IMU, featuring works from such American composers as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland.

UI junior violinist Samantha Hiller said she is grateful for the state-of-the-art amenities provided and believed the situation could have been a lot worse. For the past two years, Hiller and Krauska have taken it all in stride — a skill that will prove beneficial for their feature endeavors. They both plan to get master’s degrees in violin performance.

“The best part about the program here is how close everyone is,” Hiller said. “We have banded together through some very difficult circumstances and made the best of it, and by being so close, it makes it that much more enjoyable to make music together.”

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