Make way for the University's newest orchestra, ASU Philharmonia

ASU's newest ensemble will kick off its inaugural season at its first concert on Thursday

The ASU Philharmonia will take the stage for the first time as an ensemble for its debut concert on Thursday, Oct. 6 in a collaboration between music and non-music majors.

ASU's newest ensemble began just seven weeks ago and already has around 60 members from various schools across the campus. The orchestra also offers spots to community members and even has a few staff members involved. 

Sophomore french horn performance student Ryan Everson said the Philharmonia is unique because this is the first time that so many non-music majors have performed together with music majors.

"The cool thing about the Philharmonia is that it encourages those who maybe haven't played in a while to pick it up again," Everson said.

The group plays under the direction of Jason Caslor Ph.D, who was appointed as associate director of bands and orchestras at ASU in 2015. Aside from directing the Philharmonia, as well as the Wind Ensemble, Caslor also teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting courses and even mentors graduate students. 

Before coming to the ASU community, Caslor served as assistant professor of instrumental conducting at Memorial University in St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada from 2010 to 2015. In Newfoundland, he also directed the wind ensemble at Memorial University and oversaw instrumental conducting programs there. 

Caslor completed his doctorate in conducting at ASU and has returned to ASU to pass on his knowledge to a new generation.

He said he was hired on to take over the Wind Ensemble, as well as start up a second orchestra. That second orchestra is now the Philharmonia. He said his vision for the second orchestra was to construct an ensemble that had something to offer everyone. 

"One of the reasons we built it was to encourage non-music majors to continue playing after high school," he said. "So for example, the strings section — which there's about 35 of them — 30 of them are non-music majors. So they're wherever — from journalism, to business, to engineering, to gender studies. They cover a wide range of majors across the campus. The other half of it — it gives our brass, winds and percussion, who are our music majors, a chance to play in another orchestra."

The group plans to put on at least four concerts this school year, two per term. Caslor said he chooses music that the students may be familiar with because he really wants them to get into the music and to ultimately be successful.

"I want them to feel good about the music they're making and feel confident about it," he said. 

The orchestra has been preparing five different works for their upcoming concert since the beginning of the fall 2016 semester. These works include "Italian in Algiers" by Gioachino Rossini, "Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana" by Pietro Mascagni, "Salut d'Amour" by Edward Elgar, "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius and "Berceuse and Finale from Firebird" by Igor Stravinsky

The concert will be opened up with the piece by Rossini, which features a soft, staccato opening interrupted by a powerful strong note from the brass section, leading directly into a legato oboe solo. 

The orchestra will close out the concert with the Stravinsky piece, which features dramatic, intense and upbeat sections.

Caslor said he chose pieces that anyone with any sort of introductory music knowledge would be familiar with. 

"Even if you don't know what those sound like, if you come to the concert you will recognize almost every one of those tunes we play," Caslor said.

Cullan Lucas is a third-year doctoral student in the orchestral conducting program at ASU. He has been an integral part of the planning process for the past two years when developing the Philharmonia. 

Lucas said he wanted to be a part of the Philharmonia because he has been looking forward to its formation for a long time. He said he looks forward to seeing the orchestra help the students involved grow in their knowledge of music.

"My goals for the group over the course of this year are to continually put forth rich musical experiences, both for the students in the ensemble as well as the audience," Lucas said. "If we continually focus on creating this type of musical culture, the Philharmonia will undoubtedly continue to grow and expand the rich arts culture at ASU."

The Oct. 6 concert will be held at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on the Tempe campus and begins at 7:30 p.m. The show is free to all.


Reach the reporter at hkbrand@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @hayieysays

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