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Sept. 21, 2012
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU Brass Ensemble earns PMEA invite

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Only one brass ensemble in the state - Slippery Rock University's - has been invited to perform at the Pennsylvania Music Education Association's 2013 conference April 18-20 in Erie. The 45-student band was also asked to perform at the opening ceremony.

"There were 100 groups in the state that sent in recordings. This was quite an accomplishment to be selected," said Stephen Hawk, SRU professor of music and ensemble director. "It's a big performance and opportunity for these students and the music department."

Abi Young, director of meetings and membership for the association, said the 15 performing groups were chosen by "blind audition." Committees comprised of music educators listen to recordings without knowing which college they represented.

"They select the groups based on that listening," Young said. "Slippery Rock University was highly recommended by the committee that listened to them."

Hawk said the ensemble, which performs in the British brass band style, would perform two, 20-minute concerts that feature three or four songs in each performance.

The invite illustrates the music department's progress in recruiting outstanding musicians, Hawk said. When he joined SRU in 1989, four music majors focused on brass studies; now there are 45, he said. The ensemble recorded a CD, "Brass at The Rock," two years ago.

"It's not only that we have more, the quality of the players is astounding," Hawk said. "It didn't happen by accident. This happened because of dedicated faculty who went out and recruited."

Brass Ensemble musicians say it is a privilege to be invited.

"To say that I feel honored to play at PMEA is a gross understatement. I am so thrilled to have this amazing opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of influential music educators, performers, colleagues and prospective music students in high school," said Victoria Culp a music therapy major from Grove City who plays euphonium. "I'm excited that our group was chosen. Out of all the talented groups in the state, it is such a privilege to be chosen as a performing group."

Culp, who chose SRU for its music therapy program, said the performance does more than promote SRU's superb music program.

"Our school is a wonderful example for what other schools could do if they too would like to start a brass band since many schools are hesitant to begin an ensemble that is not widely known in the U.S. I cannot even begin to thank Dr. Hawk, our fearless leader, enough for pushing us to the level where we are as a group now."

Jordan Stehle, a music education major from Port Allegany who plays tuba, serves as student president of the ensemble.

"It is truly an honor and privilege to be selected to play at this event in front of hundreds of current Pennsylvania music educators," he said. "The SRU Brass Ensemble has been working toward being selected to play at this event for several years. The state conference is a huge opportunity to showcase the quality, professionalism and talent our music department has in all of its performing ensembles at a venue that hosts the best of the best."

He said hundreds of students from across Pennsylvania who qualified to perform in the state conference bands would have the opportunity to hear the SRU band play, which is a huge recruitment opportunity.

"Recruiting is very important for the music department because it is how we find students that have the right amount of talent, potential and work ethic to become positive members of the workforce, expanding and creating music around the world," he said.

The Hamburg-based Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, more commonly known as PMEA, is a non-profit organization with more than 5,000 members. It promotes music education.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.