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Wind Ensemble to join in celebration of Bernstein centennial

November 20th, 2018

Adam Fontana directs the Bethel College Wind Ensemble.

Bethel makes its contribution to the thousands of events celebrating the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a concert Friday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Mem Hall.

“Leonard Bernstein at 100” is a two-year global celebration of the life and career of the 20th-century cultural icon, with 4,500 events scheduled on six continents.

The festivities kicked off in September 2017 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and will continue worldwide through August 2019.

The Bethel concert “will feature highlights of Bernstein’s most beloved music,” said Wind Ensemble conductor Adam V. Fontana, D.M.A., director of instrumental music.

“Bernstein was a renowned conductor, composer, pianist, teacher and humanitarian,” Fontana continued, “and our celebration will open with a fun Cuban ‘Danzón’ from Bernstein’s Fancy Free, his earliest musical theater composition.

“To celebrate his work as a conductor, we will present the ‘Largo’ from the second movement of Antonín Dvořák’s ‘New World’ Symphony. Titled ‘Goin’ Home,’ the movement was composed by Dvořák in 1893 after traveling to New York for the first time from Bohemia.

“Bernstein would eventually come to live in New York and famously conduct the New York Philharmonic as its music director from 1958-1969 and as conductor laureate from 1969-1990.

“Bernstein was a champion of the music of Gustav Mahler – to celebrate Bernstein as a pianist, Dr. Rosa Lee, Bethel College assistant professor of music and piano, will be performing a piano transcription of the ‘Adagietto’ from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

“To highlight Bernstein’s work as a humanitarian, we will share a performance of ‘Make Our Garden Grow,’ the closing number of Bernstein’s operetta Candide.

“Closing the program will be highlights from Bernstein’s most celebrated and best-known work, West Side Story. A modern telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is beloved by audiences around the globe, and has had multiple runs on Broadway, and throughout the world, since its creation in 1961.”

The performance is free, with a freewill offering taken to support instrumental music study and performance at Bethel College.

And, Fontana added, “There will also be birthday cake! We hope you can join us as we celebrate the life, career and music of one of the greatest musicians in American history.”

Wind Ensemble personnel are: flutes, Neil Smucker, North Newton, and Mackenzie Young, Peabody; oboe, Matthew Lind, Newton; clarinets, Sarah Balzer, Inman, Peyton Landrum, Arkansas City, Jessica LaRocque, Cawker City, Anna Lubbers, Peabody, Sarah Turner, North Newton, and Kaho Yanagidaira, Nagano, Japan; saxophones, Caleb Abbott, Wichita, AJ Dugan, Walton, Aaron Long, Wichita, Tara Schwartz, Pretty Prairie, Autumn Strecker, Goessel, and Tom Tien Lo; horns, Jesse Balzer, Hurley, S.D., Annie Carlson, Hurley, S.D., and Anna Wiens, Goessel; trumpets, Connor Born, North Newton, Arlin Buller, North Newton, Chloe LaCombe, Newton, and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombones, Jerod Kaufman, Moundridge, Adam Kroeker, Augusta, Nathan Kroeker, Augusta, Seth Larson, Wichita, and Kayla Newman, Sedgwick; euphoniums, Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, and Nicholas Preheim, Peabody; tuba, Trae Gehring, Pretty Prairie; bass, Elijah Brockway, McPherson; and percussion, Matthew Garber, Newton, Devin Russ, Satellite Beach, Fla., Micah Miller Wyse, Hesston, and Bryant Young, Peabody. The ensemble manager is Caleb Abbott.

One hundred years after his birth and 28 years after his death, Bernstein’s legacy still shines brightly. Although the celebration of his Aug. 25, 1918, birthday reached a pinnacle this past summer, it continues into 2019.

For example, the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts capped off  a summer-long “Bernstein Centennial Celebration” with a gala concert this past Aug. 25, featuring major artists from classical music, film and Broadway.

PBS’ Great Performances recorded the gala and will broadcast it in the United States Dec. 28, as well as distributing it to major television outlets throughout Europe and Asia.

Also this summer, in London, BBC Proms featured eight major Bernstein works, including two of his symphonies and a concert performance of West Side Story. The Proms’ celebration culminated on Bernstein’s birthday with the London Symphony Orchestra’s concert performance of his first Broadway hit, On the Town.

Future events include Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, and two biographical films, one with Bradley Cooper directing and starring, and one starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, both for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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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.