Finding a forte at Pierce College

Katie FentonOnline Reporter

One would expect a calm and quiet campus at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, but the sounds of horns, woodwinds and percussion fill the empty hallways and transform Pierce College into a lively environment.

From 7:30-9:30 p.m. every Tuesday, musicians gather in the large auditorium across from the theater in the Arts and Allied Health Building to rehearse in the Pierce College concert band.

The band, established in the 1970s, is made up of Pierce students and community members with varying levels of musical experience. Being enrolled at the college isn’t a requirement to join. At the beginning of fall quarter, the ensemble holds open auditions so conductors can assess the skill levels they’re dealing with.

“We have professionals in this band and then beginners as well,” band director and assistant professor Oscar Thorp said. “Everyone wants a piece of the pie, (but) for the most part we treat this group like a professional band. We’re very liberal about who gets to join. It’s a very flexible ensemble.”

Thorp is a trumpet player who attended a conservatory of music and then the University of Arizona to earn his masters in conducting.

“I’ve only worked with university ensembles and a lot of those people are doing them for credit,” Thorp said. “The great thing about this band is that everyone is choosing to be here. Everyone wants to contribute and do their best. That kind of enthusiasm is rare. Being a conductor is fun enough, but with people who really want to work hard and make music with you is very rewarding.”

The band performs a concert every fall, winter and spring quarter. As the new band director, Thorp said he plans on holding more concerts outside of the college and would like the ensemble to start performing both a weekday and weekend concert.

There’s about 50 people in the group and more than 800 pieces of music in the college’s library, which requires the enlisting of teaching assistants, Thorp said.

“We’re going to add (pieces of music) to that (collection),” Thorp said. “You can’t just have an artistic director take care of it. It’s kind of like (having) an assistant librarian along with physical labor.”

Pierce student Tina Goelz has been a TA since the start of spring quarter. She needed one credit to satisfy the humanities requirement for her degree and her adviser suggested she assist the band to earn her credit. She used to play piano and regrets not pursuing music, but is happy to help the group.

“There are younger people here, older people here and everyone seems like a big family,” Goez said. “Everyone gets along and makes things happen.”

Generally TAs are required to understand how to read sheet music, but Bruce Leonardy, an adjunct professor who directed the band before Thorp was hired in February, was able to work something out with Goelz.

“Bruce told me to try it out and help around because there’s a lot of things to do,” Goelz said.

Goelz works with another TA, Catie Farley, who is also a member of the band and plays clarinet.

“Every Friday we meet upstairs and do some paperwork and help with chairs,” Goelz said. “I still haven’t figured out everything, (but) I’m trying to help around with whatever is necessary.”

The band is currently preparing for their June 12 and June 14 concerts, which will be performed at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively. The performances will be opened by the Rogers High School band in an effort to bring in a high school audience.

“A lot of kids played in their high school bands and don’t know this band exists,” Leonardy said. “To get more students involved would be a really cool thing.”

For more information about the band, Thorp has set up a Facebook page titled Pierce College Concert Band. The group’s website will also be revamped during the summer.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

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Finding a forte at Pierce College

by Katie Fenton time to read: 3 min
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