Tune in to the sounds at Hunter
Hunter symphony orchestrates talent
As the Hunter Symphony starts to tune in rehearsal, director Ruben Blundell takes the stage with an expectant expression. Once satisfied with the pitch, he quiets down the musicians and gets to work, crafting the sounds methodically and peppering in jovial music jokes between takes. Blundell is in his fourth season at Hunter conducting the symphony, after a year at Millersville University and before that, graduating with a doctorate from the prestigious Eastman School of Music.
Professor Blundell chooses the repertoire on a semester-by-semester basis considering musicians’ abilities and also taking into account the sizes of the different sections of instrument families. After auditions, he plans the program around “who will be playing, and [tries] to include everyone in as many pieces as possible.” This semester, the orchestra is constituted of a “mid-sized string section, two of most wind instruments, not so many lower brass, and an excellent harpist.” This type of instrumentation “mainly lends itself to music from the classical era and 20th century,” Blundell said. Given these circumstances, pieces to be performed this season includes the Greensleeves Fantasy by Vaughn Williams which highlights a harp part, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which listeners may recognize from the film, The King’s Speech. However when circumstances change in the Spring, a bigger orchestra is expected and the music must be adjusted accordingly. In the coming season you may hear Bizet or Tchaikovsky.
In addition to traditional concerts held on campus, the Hunter Symphony has been involved in a number of projects including “collaborations with other art forms, academic departments, and even an art gallery,” Blundell said. There are plans in the Spring for an opera production and masterclasses. These special events are free to students and can be found on the department’s website. A highlight of the Spring semester will include a student solo competition in which an outstanding soloist is selected to be accompanied by the orchestra in concert.
Furthermore, the symphony will be holding a composition workshop where they will be recording pieces by student composers at Hunter. For studying composers, this is a fantastic opportunity, as it is often very expensive to hire musicians to play new music, as well as covering the cost of renting a studio and paying a sound engineer. With so many rich opportunities for Hunter students to be recognized and hone their musical skills beyond rehearsal and concerts, these events are excellent resources to those students who are preparing for a career as a professional musician.
Music majors at Hunter take rigorous lessons and are required to learn solos and play a “jury” at each semester’s end where they showcase their progress as a solo musician. Playing in a group is a critical skill that the studying musician must learn. Making music with teachers and students requires balance, dynamics and textures in music within a group context. Cherokee Bunn, a bachelor’s in music student, who plays flute in the symphony said, “I think its a very good experience to be in the orchestra because there is a mix of more experienced players as well as students. We play with professionals sometimes to fill out the group and they bring their best.”
On working with Professor Blundell, Bunn also said, “He’s very funny, but he’s very particular in what he wants and how he wants it done. He’s not afraid to demand the best, and there’s always for improvement.” Its this kind of balance in rehearsals that allows the program to be an enjoyable experience for students and educational.
Photos by Tim Whitney
Fall performance dates are scheduled for the following: Monday, November 5 at 7:30 in the Assembly Hall, and Wednesday, December 5 at 1pm in the West Crossover. Additionally, anyone wishing to join the orchestra can visit the Hunter Symphony website (http://www.huntersymphony.org) or contact Prof Blundell directly. Any major is welcome.