Each year, a handful of students participate in the Anderson Symphony Orchestra in addition to all of their usual classes, homework, and activities on campus. ASO is the community’s local orchestra and performs about five times a year. It is directed by Dr. Richard Sowers, professor of music at Anderson University. Three AU students, Val Fagan, Haley Ferguson, and Ben Rexroth, shared their experiences in the orchestra.
Typically, the orchestra only practices about three times the week before a concert. The musicians are a mix of all ages and play all types of instruments: strings, winds, brass, and percussion. Musicians are paid to play with the orchestra, although many would do it purely for fun. [Photo on left: Val Fagan and Haley Ferguson practice their instruments on campus.]
Junior Val Fagan, a psychology major, has played the string bass in the orchestra for all three of her college years and plans to continue next year. During her freshman year, Fagan was invited by Dr. Sowers to play in the orchestra because of a shortage of string bass players. “I was thrilled and honored to be asked to play in a professional symphony,” said Fagan. “The level of music and professionalism attracted me to it and I am very grateful for the opportunity.”
Playing in the Chamber Orchestra at AU helped Fagan with the more advanced musical pieces the ASO plays. The Chamber Orchestra practices twice a week. The practices “help me to maintain my playing ability and sometimes challenge me with harder pieces that force me to work on technique,” she said.
Junior Haley Ferguson, a psychology major, also plays with the Anderson Symphony Orchestra. She has played the viola for about 10 years and has been with the orchestra since her freshman year. Sowers told her about the opportunity when she auditioned for the Chamber Orchestra on campus. “In high school, I was part of a 100-piece symphony orchestra and love the big sound, so I was immediately interested in the opportunity to become involved with ASO,” she said.
Ferguson enjoys the opportunity to improve her skills while playing in the ASO. “There is a lot to learn from the people around me, and being young and aware that I am not nearly as skilled as others is a perfect opportunity for growth,” Ferguson said. Her involvement in ASO, Chamber Orchestra, and playing for worship events on campus helps her to continually develop her musical skills. She plans to remain in the ASO through her college years and continue to play the viola after college. “I will never part from music," she said. "I value it so much. The viola is sticking with me for the long haul.”
Junior Ben Rexroth has been a substitute violinist for the Anderson Symphony Orchestra for the past year and a half. Rexroth, who is majoring in finance and business information systems, has been playing the violin for 15 years and is also a part of the Chamber Orchestra at AU.
Rexroth also learned about the ASO from Dr. Sowers and said he “wanted to do it for the experience” because few college students get this kind of opportunity. He said it can be a big commitment during the week of a performance, but he “would love to keep doing it next year as long as other activities don’t get in the way.” The other orchestra members have made it a positive experience for him as well. “I always feel welcome there. I definitely feel younger and less experienced,” he said, “but I never feel as if the other members look down on me because of it.”
For each of these students, playing in the Anderson Symphony Orchestra is a unique and unforgettable experience. Their participation in orchestra on campus is beneficial to their preparation for playing in a higher-level orchestra. Both AU and the Anderson Symphony Orchestra help them develop their musical talents and create memories they will not forget.
— Alyssa Applegate is a junior from Dayton, Ohio, majoring in communication arts and minoring in Spanish. Applegate is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.