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Concert represents joint effort of middle-school through college-age musicians

by Sam Bertholf

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The next instrumental concert of the spring at Bethel College has a different twist – featuring the “sounds of Spain” and a collaboration between college student players and musicians from Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts.

The concert, called a Latin Fusion Music Showcase, will take place April 13 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall, and is free and open to the public.

According to Adam V. Fontana, Bethel director of instrumental music who also directs the Bethel College Wind Ensemble and Philharmonia Orchestra, this collaboration has been in the works since last year.

Soon after Fontana arrived at Bethel in 2016, he began talking to BCAPA faculty about “doing some kind of collaboration between [the college’s] instrumental music program and BCAPA. We did not know what that looked like at the time.”

“This concert was a brainstorm I had after seeing the Lindsborg Community Orchestra implement a similar ‘side-by-side’ program, pairing professional and community players with high school students, during the Messiah Festival last year,” said Kristin Kliewer, BCAPA director of music.

“The younger musicians learn so much from the opportunity to play with the older students and it provides the older players a chance to mentor younger musicians.”

The specifics of the project came into focus this past fall over a cup of coffee, Fontana said.

“Kristin Kliewer and [BCAPA instrumental music faculty member] Daniel Colwell and I had coffee early this [school] year, and we were talking and brainstorming about what we could possibly do, and this is what resulted.”

The April 13 concert is, as Fontana puts it, “a toe in the water” to test the idea of future collaborations between the college and academy instrumental music programs, with an ultimate goal of getting to where this type of concert is a regular occurrence.

“I hope this is the start of something [that] becomes consistent, and we are constantly doing projects with each other,” Fontana said. “I think that would be a lot of fun.”

He said he also expects the merging of these two groups of students of varying ages to be mutually beneficial.

“It [gives students] a different purpose with their music-making,” he said. “Music is an apprenticeship art form and it is passed from generation to generation. So the more we can have generations working with each other, I think the better.”

“Latin Fusion” will blend some Latin-inspired music with traditional orchestra pieces. One example of this meshing of genres is Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” played in reimagined form as a tango.

In addition, “we’re doing a piece by Derek Jenkins, who was a guest composer on our campus [last] fall,” Fontana said, “a piece of his called ‘Fountains,’ which takes a melody from [Ottorino] Respighi, who was alive 100 years ago, and melds it in with interesting compositional tools that are new and fresh.”

Latin Fusion Music Showcase will feature the Bethel Philharmonia, a Bethel string quartet and BCAPA’s Newton Youth Orchestra and Pioneer Strings Orchestra. “Mixing and matching” conductors (Fontana and Colwell), each group will do a solo piece and then combine for two “side-by-sides.”

Filling out the program will be a solo by BCAPA’s vocal teacher, Marial Mortimer, a BCAPA student and teacher piano duet by Elisabeth Friesen and Kliewer, and a BCAPA student piano solo by Kiyah Zhuang.

“It will be a short concert,” Kliewer said, “but we are excited for the opportunity to partner with the Bethel music department and look forward to future collaborations now that we are here on campus.”

The joint efforts of Bethel’s instrumental music program and BCAPA on April 13 should be a groundbreaking event that hopefully leads to more collaborative concerts.

Bethel College ​orchestra personnel are: first violin, Nancy Johnson, Callie Ross, Overland Park, Rebecca Schloneger, Zachary Shima, Topeka, and Jason Wong; second violin, Dominique Corbeil, Emma Girton, Wichita, Julian Gonzalez-Salamanca, Madeline Nachtigal, Aubrie Nichols and Kara Tann; viola, Kay Buskirk and MacKenzi Eisenbraun, Shawnee; cello, Kate Cherveny, Topeka, Seth Girton, Jordan Schroeder, Newton, Sarah Smith, Topeka, Kate Szambecki, Diana Unruh and Chloe Wall, Goshen, Indiana; bass, Dennis Danders and Eli Brockway, McPherson; flute, Joel Boettger and Neil Smucker, North Newton; clarinet, Matthew Lind, Newton, and Kaho Yanagidaira, Nagano, Japan; bassoon, Liz Lind; saxophone, Caleb Abbott, Wichita, Joel Boettger and Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba; trumpet, Connor Born, North Newton, Evan Koch and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombone, Nathan Kroeker, Augusta, Seth Larson, Wichita, and Andrew Thiesen; horn, Kiirsi Maunula Johnson, Abigail Phillips, Maple Hill, Rebecca Schrag, Newton, and Anna Wiens, Goessel; and percussion, Shawn Bontrager, North Newton, Charles Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, and Brad Shores.

BCAPA orchestra personnel are: Newton Youth Orchestra – Daisy Buller, Lucy Buller, Abby Chappell Deckert, Elise Jantz, Teague Mendola, Claire Preheim, Tessa Preheim, Dhriti Sriram and Alondra Valle; and Pioneer Strings Orchestra – Caleb Garber, Reuben Harder, Natalie Neufeld, Lily Schloneger and Deeksha Sriram.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.