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West Liberty University’s concert band makes its national recording debut

WEST LIBERTY — During a time when performing ensembles struggle to find ways to make music with one another and share it with the public, the West Liberty University Concert Band has not only been successful rehearsing in person, they put themselves in the national spotlight.

“With the arrival of COVID-19, one of the many health and safety recommendations for large instrumental ensembles, especially those that are only able to rehearse inside, was to lessen the size of the ensemble and space musicians out 6 to 9 feet apart,” said Gretchen L. Pohlman, WLU’s director of bands and a Wheeling resident.

With this ensemble downsizing came the problem of finding quality literature for the ensemble to play, she noted. “The concert bands at WLU rehearse in College Hall throughout the fall and spring semesters. Because of the size of this space, and to ensure the 6 to 9 feet distance between musicians, I was forced to cut down the size of the University Concert Band.”

“I started contacting composers and arrangers that I knew and asking them if they were working on or considering rearranging any of their works for more flexible instrumentation. One of the first individuals I contacted was Pam Smith Kelly, president of Claude T. Smith Publications, and Smith’s daughter. Not only did Mrs. Kelly have original literature of Claude T. Smith’s that was being arranged for small bands and with flexible instrumentation, but she asked if we would be interested in recording these soon-to-be released works.”

Recognizing the wonderful opportunity this provided students within the WLU concert band program, Pohlman did not hesitate to take Kelly up on her offer. Throughout the course of the fall semester, the University Concert Band rehearsed and recorded the first two newly arranged pieces of Smith’s — Declaration Overture and Avondale Overture.

With many additional works on the way, this recording project will continue into the spring semester for the WLU concert band program.

“Being part of a recording project of this magnitude has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved. And I could not be prouder of the University Concert Band members, nor more humbled for the opportunity to stand in front of them and serve as their conductor. With all the obstacles and distractions that COVID-19 presented to us this past semester, these students, university faculty, and area community members came together and produced a beautiful product that they should be nothing but proud of,” Pohlman said.

The premier performance of these works took place recently.

Pohlman also worked with Theresa Gretchen of WLU’s streaming platform known as Topper Station to put the finishing touches on a band concert over the holidays that is now posted online at: topperstation.com/watch/wlu-bands-holiday-special-2020.

This performance features the WLU University Concert Band, Steel Band, African Drum & Dance Ensemble, and The Marching Hilltoppers.

Additionally, the public is now able to hear these newly recorded works by the University Concert Band on the Claude T. Smith Publications website and C.L. Barnhouse Company website.

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