U-Band Brings Students and the Community Together for 30 Years


The University Band at rehearsal on Feb. 23.

Anna Kuschel

University Band rehearsal doesn’t start until 7:45, but some musicians get there as early as 6:45 to warm up or talk with their fellow musicians and friends. Freshman CUC student Jacob Kimble usually sits next to fellow bass clarinet player Alan Reed, who works in nonprofit management. Though they wouldn’t cross paths ordinarily, University Band rehearsal each week gives them the opportunity to get to know one another and learn from each other musically.

The University Band, or U-Band, is unique among Concordia Chicago’s instrumental groups in that it is composed of local amateur musicians who perform alongside CUC students.

The U-Band was initially formed during the 1990s to accommodate the large number of instrumentalists at CUC at that time. There were more musicians at CUC than the Wind Symphony could fit, so the U-Band was formed with the overflow. 

However, there were not enough CUC students for a full instrumentation in each group, so community members were invited to fill in the gaps. The group grew, and eventually there were more community members than CUC students in the ensemble. 

“I didn’t know how long the group was going to last, and I didn’t know the future,” said Richard Fischer, D.M.A., the conductor of the University Band since it was formed. Fischer, who also conducts the CUC Wind Symphony and teaches conducting classes, is in his 49th year at CUC. “Now, it is as big as it has ever been and the best it has ever sounded.”

At its origin, U-Band only planned on performing a few pieces at the spring music festival. The first rehearsal was held on December 2, 1993. After a few rehearsals Fischer decided the group was good enough to have their own concert. 

The first U-Band concert was held on April 15, 1994 in the Geiseman Auditorium. Four current members have been playing since the very first season, with four other current members joining in the second season. 

The ensemble rehearses every Thursday from 7:45 to 9:30 pm. They perform four concerts a year: a fall concert, a Christmas concert, a spring concert, and a Patriotic Pops concert in the summer. 

The U-Band is composed of a variety of people. The majority of them are unaffiliated with CUC. While some members have careers in music, others do not and are in U-Band to stay involved with music. 

“I try to give the members a good musical outlet, because most of them don’t do music during the day,” said Fischer. “I want to give them a heartfelt experience at night after the workday is over.” 

No matter their occupation, playing in the U-Band allows members to take a break from everyday life and do something they enjoy. 

“I keep playing because it is such a good mental break,” said French horn player Betsy Voyles. “No matter what’s been going on during the week, I always feel better after rehearsal.” 

A number of current CUC students are in the U-Band this year. Some are involved because they love music and want to be in as many ensembles as possible. Others are unable to be in the Wind Symphony this semester, so they play in U-Band to stay in shape. 

“I think that some Wind Symphony members are in U-Band because they just can’t get enough music in their lives,” said Fischer. “They appreciate an expanded repertoire and being able to have another musical experience.” 

Fischer also noted that U-Band has a Christmas concert, which is appealing to students who enjoy playing Christmas classics like Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” The Wind Symphony, on the other hand, does not typically hold a Christmas concert.

At each U-Band concert, former CUC professor Jean Harrison Bojes introduces each piece in the performance. She began doing this in the late 90s to make up for a lack of paper programs at the outdoor summer concerts. Usually programs contain notes that help the audience better understand the music, so Bojes replaced these with verbal commentary about the piece, composer, and other relevant facts. 

After the next indoor concert, the audience asked why there was no verbal commentary given. Fischer and Bojes agreed that this was something that could be given at every concert, regardless of whether or not there were programs. Bojes has given commentary for over 25 years now, even after leaving her faculty position at CUC.

Freshman bass clarinet player Jacob Kimble enjoys the opportunity to get to know people from the community through being in the U-Band. 

“People from all different walks of life and professions come together to make beautiful music,” said Kimble, “I love meeting new people, especially wonderful musicians and individuals from the area.” 

Other members join to get more practice on a secondary instrument, in a more casual environment. 

“I joined U-Band in its very first year, when I was still a BME student at CUC,” said euphonium player Gabrielle Rosenblum. Initially, she played trombone in U-Band, but her primary instrument is euphonium, which plays in a similar range to the trombone, but instead of a slide it uses valves to play different notes, similar to a trumpet. “It was an opportunity for many of us to get more playing time on secondary instruments.” 

The U-Band provides an opportunity for CUC to be engaged in the community. Many U-Band members live in the area, and this is their only affiliation with CUC. Additionally, the four concerts attract community members, and bring them to campus. 

“My favorite part of playing in U-Band is being part of something bigger than myself,” said Rosenblum, “taking my part and contributing to the whole feels almost transcendent.” 

The next U-Band concert will be held on Saturday, June 24th at 6:30 p.m. in front of the pillars outside Addison Hall. The group will perform a program that includes “America the Beautiful,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Highlights from The Music Man,” and “Armed Forces Salute”.