On April 22, the University of Maine Symphonic Band hosted their annual spring concert through a livestream performance.
The UMaine Symphonic Band is a student band composed of woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments involving over 300 students from every year across many different majors.
Christopher White is the director of UMaine’s Symphonic Band as well as the Screamin’ Black Bears Pep Band and Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band. It is his 29th year at UMaine.
The symphonic band typically performs two concerts in the fall, participates in a four to 10 day concert tour in the spring and performs one concert on campus in the spring on the Collins Center for the Arts (CCA) stage with typically 300-400 audience members at a time.
This year, concerts moved from a physical to virtual venue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to copyright laws, recordings of the performances are not available.
“We performed one streamed concert in the fall, and this spring, we offered two virtual tour concerts during the day for the public schools to watch,” White said. “Then of course, there was this performance.”
Aside from complicating their performance space, COVID-19 brought on challenges for the performers themselves.
“We had to follow campus and state guidelines as well as recommendations resulting from an ongoing research study into aerosols and wind instruments,” White said. “[It was challenging, but] the students had the bigger challenges to overcome getting used to the various protocols specific to their instrument so that they could play. My biggest thank you goes to all the students who rose to the occasion and overcame the challenges and grew in the experience.”
White recognized that the real highlight of this past year was the fact that the band was able to make music when many others around the state and around the country could not.
Their virtual concert series required an immense amount of support, with three essential people behind the scenes making it happen. Kylie Temple followed the music scores and prompted camera shots to happen in sequence with the music. Scott Eichel pre-set the cameras, switching between various shots on cue from Temple. Gavin Powers set up and monitored the video feed stream and audio. Powers also cued in the introduction videos between songs.
White also commended Danny Williams, the executive director at the CCA who works with the band to schedule events, as well as Jeffrey Richards and Scott Stitham as technical and assistant technical directors.
Aside from the symphonic band, UMaine features three other large wind bands. The concert band, directed by Phil Edelman, is a non-auditioned group made up of students of all ages and instrument groups. The Screamin’ Black Bears Pep Band, a non-auditioned group, is comprised of students from all years and is perhaps best-known for playing at men’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball games. Lastly, the Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band, a non-auditioned group, performs for all-season sports and also features the Dance Team and Majorettes. To be a Dance Team member or a Majorette, an audition is required.
For more information on any of UMaine’s ensembles including the symphonic band, please visit the School of Performing Arts page, or contact White directly with inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.