When the polar vortex gave Iowa negative 50-degree wind chills and inches of light, blowing snow, Central College’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble escaped south to Dallas, Texas, during January. During one packed week, the band was able to both share its gift of music and see the sites of Dallas.
This year, three guest artists accompanied the ensemble on the tour: Rusty Johnson, 2003 Central alum and professional saxophonist from Los Angeles, Calif.; Dennis Pedde, instructor of upper brass at Central and trumpet player; and Stan Dahl, director of the steel pans ensemble at Central.
“All of us in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble were inspired by their high level of musicianship, and enjoyed their camaraderie on the tour,” says Mitchell Lutch, director of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and associate professor of music.
The ensemble shared its music with churches and schools in Dallas, but the trip was not all work. The students were also able to listen to the music of the University of North Texas One O’clock Lab Band, visit the Dallas Museum of Art and the Fort Worth Stockyards and go on a tour of the AT&T Stadium where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys play. Another highlight was visiting the Dealey Plaza Museum, which commemorates the day president John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The most memorable moment of the tour for the students, however, happened when the ensemble performed at the Golden Acres nursing home. One of the pieces the ensemble performed was “Elegy to a Young American,” which is dedicated to the memory of JFK. Before the piece was played, Lutch asked the residents where they were when they learned Kennedy was shot.
“One lady in the second row said that she and her son were about a block away when they heard the shots,” remembers freshman Zach Steward. “Afterwards, she went to Parkland hospital where Kennedy was taken. At this point in her story, even though fifty years had passed, she was still getting choked up and was crying. She had stood there in the crowd, where people were locked arm-in-arm praying for the president, when a representative came out to inform them that the president was dead.”
“Her emotion and testimony made clear everything we had observed at Dealey Plaza,” adds senior Kylee Martin. “It also made the emotion in our performance of ‘Elegy for a Young American’ very real.”
The performance was not all solemn, however. “One lady was dancing and singing in her seat to every one of the pieces we played!” says senior Kersten Speed with a laugh. “It was a joy to watch her get so into the music.”
At the end of the week to cap off the tour, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble held a reception for Central alumni who are now living in Dallas.
“The alumni reception at our hotel showed everyone in the group how special the extension is with the Central College family,” says Lutch. “It was heartwarming to experience the same familial community that we enjoy every day on campus hundreds of miles away in Dallas.”
Looking back on the week, the ensemble members agree the bonding that happened on tour made the trip memorable.
“Whether it was the late-night card games, the outings or the movies on the bus, it all led to making close friendships that I hope never to lose,” says Steward. “Central’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble has given me so many opportunities that I might never have been able to have any other way. Dallas has been the highlight of my first year here at Central.”