This year marks 140 years since founding of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra. The Gustavus Wind Orchestra, known affectionately as GWO, has garnered a 140-years-long legacy of excellence, offering the gift of music to the Gustavus campus and beyond since 1878.
Fresh off a tour through Sweden and Norway, the GWO ensemble of 2018 is celebrating this incredible milestone with a GWO Anniversary Reunion Weekend, May 11 through May 13.
Of course, 140 years of fantastic musicianship calls for more than the usual spring concert.
“We all care about how we sound and are willing to work hard so that we can reach our full potential as an ensemble.” — Sydney Hedberg
This year, current members of GWO and 180 alumni alike will come together during the concert to perform and honor the GWO legacy.
“I’m really excited to see what impact playing the music has for the returning alumni, coming back to Gustavus and GWO and hearing their stories from when they were in the band,” Junior Kari Felland said.
Indeed, the group of alumni performing in the concert is large in number but also in breadth, ranging from the class of ’63 to ’17.
No matter their age, major, or instrument, this reunion will truly be connecting the performers in GWO pride.
But beyond the immensely powerful alumni presence, this concert has a plethora of goodies in store.
“GWO will present a concert that lifts up our student-centered approach to music performance education,” Dr. Patrick Miller, current GWO director, said.
The set features a number of student leadership opportunities geared toward showcasing the growth of GWO’s impressively dedicated music majors.
“Charlie Barnhouse, a current junior music major, wrote a new piece for the band entitled ‘Saturn V’.
We will give Charlie’s new work its world premiere,” Miller said.
The concert also features seniors Jessica Backes (Flute) and John Halvorson (Horn) as soloists, and senior music majors Emily Komperude and Emily Sasik as student conductors.
An impressive amount of diligence has gone into producing this landmark concert.
“This concert has a lot more pieces than normal [which] required more time spent individually and as a section to master the music, but we are very excited to share this music with the GWO [alumni],” Sophomore Sydney Hedberg said.
GWO continues to produce beautiful musical performances, and they clearly understand this does not come out of thin air.
However, the ensemble is quick to whistle while they work. “It’s been fun to hear each piece coming together, and also to imagine the alumni that will be playing it with us during the reunion,” Felland said.
Some of the specific rehearsal styles have also gleaned positive attitudes from students. “My favorite rehearsals have been performed in a round where a mixed formation promotes greater listening and cohesion throughout the band,” Senior Kelly Neubauer said.
With such an elaborate production looming overhead, the GWO ensemble meets the challenge with enthusiasm, determination, and plenty of bona fide Gustie character.
Touring in Sweden and Norway had a particularly profound effect on the students.
“Coming back from our tour of Norway and Sweden, I appreciate the connections I have with others in GWO so much more.
“We’re so much closer as a group and I’ve made connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Felland said.
The touring opportunity made a similar impression on Hedberg. “We grew closer together while traveling, both to each other and to the music. After returning from tour, more people seem connected to one another and more invested in making music,” Hedberg said.
Evidently, travelling to Sweden and Norway allowed GWO to deeply connect to Gustavus’ Scandinavian heritage and share music with diverse corners of the world.
But most importantly, the tour helped GWO grow as a family.
The 2017-18 season gave GWO a number of opportunities to grow and develop as an ensemble.
“I’m really excited to see what impact playing the music has for the returning alumni, coming back to GAC and GWO and hearing their stories when they were in the band.” — Kari Felland
“GWO has become more and more connected through each musical experience we have been on this year. By supporting each other, we have found our sound, allowing us to share deeply emotional and technically excellent performances with each other and our audiences,” Neubauer said.
Hedberg noted the sheer amount of motivation within the students themselves.
“We all care about how we sound and are willing to work hard so that we can reach our full musical potential as an ensemble,” Heberg said.
The anniversary concert has also produced a good source of inspiration.
“It’s [been] really cool to plan for the reunion. We’ll get the chance to meet Gustavus alumni who were in our shoes five, ten, twenty, or more years ago and sharing that connection and experience is really powerful,” Felland said.
The 140th Anniversary Concert will be held in Christ Chapel at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. It succeeds a weekend-long slew of festivities that bring together students, families, and alumni alike for a celebration of profound and honorable Gustavus legacy.
140 years is a long time to maintain a legacy of excellence, but GWO has achieved that and then some.
On this weekend, 140 years evokes a deep sense of history, awe, and anticipation for the next 140 years.