Campus Ensembles Face Uncertain Future

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    due to budget cuts, the UCSC Wind Ensemble has temporarily been suspended.
    due to budget cuts, the UCSC Wind Ensemble has temporarily been suspended. Photo by Isaac Miller.

    Over the past 12 years, the UC Santa Cruz Wind Ensemble has grown from 25 to 80 musicians, played the national anthem before a San Francisco Giants game, and received a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall. Despite these accomplishments, the ensemble’s Spring performance may be the last for the foreseeable future.

    Extensive budget reductions handed down to the Music Department resulted in the temporary suspension of the Wind, Balinese Gamelan, Contemporary Music, Central Asian, and Latin American Ensembles.

    These groups are some of the few resources available for non-music majors to continue playing their instruments in college. Third-year business management economics major Hailey Sinder plays flute in the wind ensemble, which she considers an important outlet.

    “It’s a great creative release for all of us outside of our studies and work,” Sinder said.  “I love it, I’m not a music major or minor, I just do it for fun and that is the case with most of the kids in the band.”

    Wind Ensemble founder and director Rob Klevan did not learn his ensemble was on hiatus until he received the schedule for Fall Quarter 2010, sans rehearsal times. It wasn’t until later that the music department emailed him to disclose its uncertainty regarging whether or not the course will be offered next year.

    “[The Wind Ensemble] is something to be really proud of,” Klevan said. “For the music department to all of a sudden cut it is really hard to understand.”

    Department Chair Fred Lieberman said in an e-mail that the Music Department’s budget has been reduced by around $130,000 for the 2009-10 school year and could face further cuts in the future.  Fixed costs in the Music Department budget, such as salaries, leave few options of where to allocate reductions, placing the campus ensembles in jeopardy.  Lieberman said that difficult decisions must be made in planning next year’s available courses without knowing the exact level of funds available.

    “[Some Courses] are on temporary hiatus until our budget is restored either by the state, Arts Division, or private donors,” Lieberman said. “We have already absorbed large cuts over the past several years, and everyone is aware that the new cuts will be painful.”

    For students like Sinder, whose next year at UCSC will be her last, this quarter is her final opportunity to participate in non-major orchestras and ensembles.

    “I was planning on being in it every quarter here,” Sinder said. “I would be extremely disappointed if [I couldn’t take it].”

    Despite looming budget cuts and impending suspension, the Wind Ensemble looks forward to playing its upcoming Spring Concert in May.

    Playing with the Watsonville Taiko drummers, the Wind ensemble will perform the world premiere of  “Antares Rising,” Op. 73 composed by Nicolas Vasallo, a UCSC graduate student.  Other pieces performed will include the Overture to “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein and the Led Zeppelin-inspired “Black Dog” by Scott McAllister, featuring Faculty member John Sackett on Clarinet.

    Klevan is still excited about the Wind Ensemble’s 2010 culminating performance and remains optimistic that the group will find a way to persevere despite funding obstacles.

    “There is something for everybody to come and enjoy music that is different and music that is very lyrical and beautiful,” Klevan said. “Its the last performance of this year and hopefully we will have more in the future … I just want to see it keep going.”

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    The concert will take place in the Music Center Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. May 15.
    Tickets will be ($10, $8, $6)
    More Info available at arts.ucsc.edu.