The University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra is the only Canadian collegiate invited to perform among elite musicians from Israel, Germany, Japan and the United States at a prestigious international conference in San Jose, California.
According to the official event website, the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles is the only international organization of its kind completely dedicated to enhancing the quality of the wind band throughout the world.
WASBE exposes its members to new worlds of repertoire, musical culture, people and places. This will be the 16th instance of the international conference and the third time that the USWO is invited to not only attend but also perform three times over the course of July 13-20.
Darrin Oehlerking, director of bands and assistant professor of music at the U of S, conducts the USWO and teaches courses in conducting, wind literature and music education.
“[This] is a really prestigious event with band conductors, scholars, enthusiasts of the highest caliber from all over the world coming to this conference every time that it is staged and I think that it is very telling of the university band legacy,” Oehlerking said.
Although the ensemble is open to any student on campus, Oehlerking has the final say when it comes to auditions and insists that it is a pretty select group.
An amalgamation of both music majors and various other majors, the orchestra is made up of representation from several different colleges and schools around the university including students from business, education, kinesiology and engineering. The band consists entirely of undergraduate students, which Oehlerking says is unusual for a band of this caliber.
“Some of the bigger university programs will have masters and even doctoral students that are learning a specific instrument or a specific study, so they have a lot more experience and a lot more intense performing experience potentially than some of our undergrads; so for an entirely undergraduate ensemble to be invited to a conference like this is pretty significant.”
Through various fundraising efforts, the USWO has already secured one-third of their estimated $100,000 in trip expenses.
“The running total right now is probably $30,000 to $35,000, so for a trip like this that is really significant to a university student obviously,” Oehlerking said.
Phillip Hobson, 2015 WASBE conference coordinator, provided a breakdown of performer demographics in an email interview with the Sheaf.
“There are 17 performing groups for the 2015 WASBE San Jose Conference. Among the 17 ensembles are six university groups. We do have a group from Israel and a group from Japan that have a mix of high school and college age musicians.”
According to Hobson, the USWO will be playing a significant role in this year’s conference.
“U of S is a welcome addition to the conference. They are one of three Canadian performing groups. In addition to their conference performance, they will also be a demonstration group for new repertoire and they will be performing at the beautiful Castello di Amarosa in the Napa Valley.”
Oehlerking expects a high commitment level from band members, since they are responsible for performing challenging repertoires, and commends their ability to balance this extra responsibility with their already hectic academic schedules.
“A conference like this is completely an extracurricular activity, there is no extra credit, no curricular recognition; this is purely for the love of music and for the passion of being in the ensemble.”
As the band counts down the last days leading up to the July conference, Oehlerking acknowledges the significance of this opportunity.
“It is an honour for us to represent the department, more importantly to represent the university, to represent the province and to take this internationally-recognized talent, which is what these students are; to take them down to this conference and be a part of it is really special so we are very excited to represent everybody as best as we can down there.”