Although the Alumni Weekend Concert is a celebration for U of A students of years past, it’s also an introductory showcase for many of its current music students.
“This concert highlights what our large ensemble has to offer,” says Petar Dundjerski, the conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra (USO).
The USO, along with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE), are the two student ensembles set to play the Department of Music’s annual, free Alumni Weekend Concert, which is being held on Sunday afternoon at Convocation Hall. The concert will feature a variety of pieces by Copland, Dvořák, Fauré, as well as Mozart’s, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and will be followed by a reception where guests can visit with the musicians. The event is currently sold out, but day-of seats may still become available, though priority will be given to those who have pre-registered.
The Alumni Weekend Concert marks the beginning of a new concert season and accordingly holds great importance for both students and the Department of Music.
“It’s the first time we’ll be performing as this incarnation of the Orchestra,” says Dundjerski. “Half of the people have changed from last year, so it’s very important we have this concert to set the tone for the year and unite the group.”
Both the USO and the SWE, which is conducted by Dr. Angela Schroeder, have been rehearsing frequently for the concert — the USO itself has meetings twice a week. The rehearsal process, according to Dundjerski, is a collaborative one.
“I want (the students) to feel connected to the process, says Dundjerski. “They can say whatever they feel in rehearsals at any point.”
Along with rehearsals, picking the pieces to play is a crucial aspect of their preparation.
“I try to find a balance between what the audience wants to hear, while having (the concert) filtered through an educational perspective,” says Dundjerski of the process before expressing his excitement for this weekend’s picks.
“(The songs) are jewels!” he says. “They’re very energetic and happy and have some profound things to say in the forward tempo.”
While discussing the approach for picking pieces to play during the upcoming season, Dundjerski explains that he tried something different than in previous years: he let the students help him decide.
“I asked the students at the end of last season to suggest the pieces they would like perform most,” he says. “More than 60 % of what’s featured this season was directly suggested by students.”
Regarding what his players as well as concert-goers might expect from the upcoming season, Dundjerski says that the goal of the music is growth.
“As we go into the season, the pieces will increase in complexity and musical difficulty for both the orchestra as well as the audience,” says Dundjerski. “As we move along, there will be longer pieces, ones that require longer sustained focus on behalf of the students as well as the listening public.”
While the season is young and Sunday’s Alumni Concert is just the beginning, it’s clear that for Dundjerski and the rest of the Department of Music, this weekend’s concert will not only honour the U of A’s alumni but more than that, will serve as a fitting jumping off point for another great year.