By Jenna Purcell
City on a Hill Press Reporter
How did UC Santa Cruz’s Wind Ensemble get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice … and a series of donations from generous music buffs.
The UCSC Wind Ensemble is a music class open to all students, and is lead by conductor Robert Klevan. The ensemble, which performed in New York City’s world-renowned Carnegie Hall over President’s Day weekend, received massive donations from all 10 UC Santa Cruz colleges, many of the college senates, and several supportive foundations associated with the band’s director, Rob Klevan. The trip, which has cost upward of $1,000 per student in past years, was cut down to $200 per student due to these contributions.
“I’m very appreciative for all the donations, but this is about more than just the money,” Klevan said prior to the trip. “These students get to experience a life-changing event; they get to play in a world-class hall in a major city, which is really a wonderful experience for them.”
Rebecca Yamarik is a former student of Klevan’s who spontaneously donated upon seeing the band perform in November.
“Their performance was so good. I was amazed. They were very professional and so much better than I thought they would be,” Yamarik said. “I wasn’t really planning on donating, but I was so impressed with their performance I felt they deserved to have this experience without having to pay too much.”
Yamarik, whose violin studies under Klevan at the Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach included a band trip to England, understands the benefits of performing away from the home turf. Now a physician, Yamarik believes such musical endeavors lent to her success in a career outside of music.
“I assume a lot of these students won’t become musicians, but an experience like this is useful for any profession,” Yamarik said. “It teaches you how to work with other people toward a common goal. That’s a skill they can use in any aspect of their lives.”
Experiences in the hotel, notorious NYC pizza and cheesecake gorging, and eventually the concert made the trip memorable for participants like second-year and French horn player Sylvia Soule.
“I didn’t have a very cohesive ‘band feeling’ before we went [on this trip], but now I definitely love everyone in Wind Ensemble,” Soule said. “I had fun with them — I got to see them at their best and their worst. People that I never would have sat down and shared drinks with, I sat down and shared drinks with.”
The ensemble played as part of the hall’s Excellence in Education Series, which also featured the North Brunswick Township High School Orchestra from New Jersey and New York’s Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps Symphonic Band.
The performance was rumored to be the ensemble’s best thus far. According to flautist Lisa Ryland, the trip and performance granted what had been a persisting ambition.
“[Playing in Carnegie Hall] was phenomenal. It was a dream come true,” Ryland said. “This was actually one of my ‘things to do before I die,’ and it happened! So I was really happy about that.”
Soule and Ryland, who both performed solos in the concert, recalled the brimming balconies, the “free” $100 souvenir concert tickets, and the roaring standing ovation of a crowd 2,000 strong following their performance. Soule anticipates that such aspects of the trip will follow her home and resurface as she continues her musical education.
“When you have something that you usually do in a classroom and you take it to a different place, especially an exciting place like Carnegie Hall, you really feel like you’re doing something important,” Soule said. “It gives you more of a sense of purpose, to go back and rehearse after you’ve played someplace you don’t normally play.”
As UCSC’s Wind Ensemble prepares for their next concert, the lingering grandeur of Carnegie Hall and the generosity of the trip’s faithful patrons may recede among rehearsal schedules and the general bustle of student life at UCSC. For many, however, the donations that made this trip possible have forever changed the group for the better.
“I went on this trip and I just felt like it was a bunch of people going to New York together,” Soule said. “But when we came back, I felt like we were a band. I feel like we’re a family.”
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