by Eric Moenich For the Miami Student
Miami University’s Oxford Chamber Orchestra and a cappella group the Mergers displayed their many talents on stage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland this past Thursday.
With selections by groups such as the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, both groups were able to pay tribute to several famous artists while delivering brilliant and unique performances of their own.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Teachers Rock” program, geared towards the education and appreciation of music in schools nationwide, along with breaking down the barriers between classical and rock music, opened its doors to Miami’s ensembles as well as an ensemble from Northern Kentucky University to show teachers around the country the endless possibilities and opportunities that music education can provide.
The Teachers Rock workshop was co-hosted by the College Orchestra Directors Association (CODA) and was streamed live on the Rock Hall’s website.
Miami’s ensembles were given this remarkable opportunity thanks to Master Percussionist and Miami alumnus Srinivas Krishnan, a supporter of the musical arts. Through a contact at the Rock Hall, he was able to set up the event for Miami’s performing groups.
The Mergers’ lineup for the concert consisted of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Old Friends” and a medley of songs by Nat King Cole. Backed by a string quartet of Miami students and Miami ethnomusicology professor Thomas Garcia, the Mergers were able to honor legendary musicians in a very famous venue. By providing a new take on well-known music, they were able to demonstrate the vocal talent of Miami.
“Being able to perform in front of such an appreciative audience, in a place where rock stars have been inducted was such a big privilege,” senior Meaghan Parsons, a member of the Mergers, said. “Performances like these have taught me to always accept opportunities and to not take things for granted.”
In addition to the Mergers, the Oxford Chamber Orchestra put on a brilliant performance, playing selections such as “Eleanor Rigby,” “Yesterday” and “Penny Lane.” Garcia obtained the arrangements of the popular tunes through his contact with the publisher of a talented composer from his recent research on performing and teaching in Havana. Conducted by professor Ricardo Averbach with Garcia playing guitar, the orchestra displayed the talent of Miami’s instrumental music program in front of the national audience.
“Being able to teach and perform seamlessly on a national stage in such a great venue was spectacular,” Garcia said. “Performances like these are what we live for.”
One of the most impressive aspects of this hour and a half-long concert was the achievement shown by both ensembles despite the initial obstacles of time and complicated logistics. Since it took place right at the beginning of this semester, both groups had to rehearse and prepare for this prestigious event despite the gap of winter break. Ordering music from another country also created some difficulties.
In addition to these logistical challenges, the very stage on which the students performed was small and difficult to manage acoustically. Nevertheless, every group delivered a concert that showed the audience that Miami takes music very seriously.
In addition to the workshop, the prestigious Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, opened its doors to the Miami students and college conductors. The orchestra had an open rehearsal for those attending to further demonstrate the importance of music not only in schools, but in society as well.
This was especially important to Averbach, who hopes to bring this message back to Miami’s campus. Having just been named president-elect of CODA, he is dedicated to music as well as its appreciation across the nation.
“There is a lot of talk about critical thinking on college campuses today,” Averbach said. “However, we are in the era of creative thinking. If we use critical thinking skills along with the creativity of music, we can make a huge difference in students’ lives and solve challenges around the world.”
In today’s world, orchestras are struggling. Many are going bankrupt or disbanding due to lack of support from their communities. Music is an evolving art form that, unlike the physically enduring nature of sculptures or paintings, cannot survive without the support of an audience.
Concerts and workshops such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Teachers Rock program encourage the appreciation of music in all forms, starting with younger audiences.
After such incredible performances from Miami’s Music Department, including this year’s performance at Carnegie Hall as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s workshop, Averbach wants the community to recognize and support the musical talent here at Miami University.
“I’d like to ask the university community to support the arts as much as possible,” Averbach said. “In doing this, there is much to be gained by everyone.”