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Symphonic band gets in tune at Baltimore's Morgan State University

Morgan State University Symphonic Band's Spring Concert
Morgan State University Symphonic Band's Spring Concert
by V. M. Oliver-Lawson

Morgan State University (MSU) has developed a reputation for many things, most noted is its awesome choir. There is, however, one more thing which should be noted. The school is home to a symphonic band.

So, Sunday April 27, 2014 found this writer sitting in the James H. and Louise Hayley Gilliam Concert Hall absorbing the sounds which flowed from the various instruments as students, current and former, performed in the Morgan State University Spring Concert. This is an annual event as the Fine Arts Department showcases the hard work during the semester by both students and staff.

The program was divided into four segments, with Melvin N. Miles, Jr., who has over forty years at Morgan, conducting. The music had a wide appeal to the diverse groups represented, from young to old. The selections performed provided an opportunity to highlight the musical prowess of each instrument section. The wind music featured new as well as traditional pieces. Much of the music had crossover appeal, with the band displaying its versatility as the members played symphonies, marches, and hymns. A few of the composers were Baltimore natives, who had moved on to a greater territory in the field.

The composers highlighted were John Phillip Sousa, Robert Sheldon, Brian Balmages, James Barnes, John Mackey, Samuel Hazo, Vincent Persichetti, Clifton Williams, James Barnes Chance, Carl Strommen, Marc Mellits and Julius Fucik.

The instrumentalists of the MSU Symphonic Band were Savannah Kirby (Piccolo), Cynthia Jones, Savannah Kirby, Angelaque Wicks (flute), Kellin Nelson (Oboe), Terrell Andrews, Jada Davis, Khayla Moore, Krystal Williams, Jonathan Massey (Clarinet), Tarik McKeython (Soprano and Alto Saxophone), Yvonne Barrett, Alexander Rector, Sierra Smith, Dwight Washington (Alto Saxophone), Jerome Queen, Brian VanHook (Tenor Saxophone), Christopher Blunt (Baritone Saxophone), Fred Boateng, DeVon Hudson, Robert McIver, Freeman McLean, Brandon Pierce, Janelle Stewart (all on Trumpet), Rachel Cain, Jaleiro Elsey, Malachi Tatum (French Horn), Markus Clark, Timothy Johnson, Dale Lawton, Jason Matthews, John Newsome, Curtis Sample-Hawkins (Trombone), Alex Luis, Deborah Watson (Euphonium), Randy Hampton, Brett Kennedy, Kevin Little, Mardis Leigh, Deanna Marner, Lewis Williams (Tuba), Jamicka Johnson-Hecotor (String Bass), Michael Arnolia, Travon Belinfante, Nicholas Bryant, Naomi Campbell, Morgan Cotton, Jameela Hendricks, Evander McLean, Damien Walker (Percussion) and Felicia Thomas on Piano.

Michelle Elsey, proud mom of French Horn player Jaleiro Elsey, said she thought the concert was just lovely. She stated that her son had been playing since elementary school and had been playing the French Horn for four years.

Another proud parent, Julia VanHook, stated that her son, Brian, had been accepted to Peabody and was weighing his options.

These students displayed talents which had this writer reflecting upon the importance of the arts in education. Even after the concert had concluded, one could sense the energetic charge that still existed in the young musicians.

The world-renowned Baltimore Symphony Orchestra had better watch out because the next generation of musicians is knocking at the door---hard!