CHADRON – Throughout the school year, the Chadron State College music department provides many opportunities for local residents and members of the college community to hear students and faculty members perform. Those performances include recitals, community band and choir concerts, and programs such as the popular “Mallets and Ivory” Christmas program.
What’s less well-known on campus are the multiple performances by CSC musicians for audiences outside of the immediate area that music department faculty arrange as part of an outreach effort to create awareness of the college’s strong program in music and music education.
“We do a lot of things outside of Chadron that maybe people don’t know about as much,” said music faculty memberMichael Stephens. “Everybody in the department is involved. We like to get CSC groups out to perform.”
In April, faculty member Sid Shuler led a tour by the CSC Wind Symphony that included a performance at Casper College, attendance at a Utah Symphony performance, and a clinic with University of Utah director Scott Hagen.
That was part of a schedule that takes instrumental and vocal groups on tour in alternating years, said faculty member Joel Schreuder, who led a tour in the spring of 2015 that took the CSC Choir to schools in Casper, Riverton, Buffalo and Sundance, Wyoming, Schreuder said.
Smaller music groups, such as the Saxophone Quartet, which performed this month at the Willow Tree Festival in Gordon, and the CSC Birds, led by Dr. Sandy Schaefer, also perform for schools and at other venues around the region.
The Saxophone Quartet and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble have performed, by invitation, at the Nebraska Music Educators conference, noted Stephens. And the Vocal Jazz Ensemble has performed for and helped run clinics at the Nebraska Choral Directors Association Vocal Jazz Festival for the last 14 years, Schreuder said.
An annual trip to the Greeley, Colorado, Jazz Festival by the CSC Jazz Band and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble is a regular feature on the music department’s schedule, as is the High Plains Band and Choir Festival, which brings almost 200 music students from schools around the region to Chadron every February, Stephens said.
The department’s outreach efforts also include faculty members working as guest conductors and leading music clinics for schools in the region. Shuler and Schreuder are particularly active as guest conductors, Stephens said, who also has directed for regional honor bands.
Schreuder conducted clinics with Nebraska school choirs in Sidney, Ogallala, Valentine, Gering and Hot Springs, South Dakota last fall.
“I am invited to either conduct an area honor choir, or judge a solo or choral contest about four times a year,” he said.
Other faculty members do solo performances both on and off campus throughout the year, and the department contacts schools each fall about opportunities for performances and music clinics, Schreuder added.
The department’s outreach efforts have multiple benefits for students.
“It is experience that will enhance their learning,” Stephens said. “There is value in getting out of your comfort zone and performing for other people.”
At the jazz festival in Greeley, students not only have the opportunity to perform, they can also hear others play and attend clinics with members of some of the world class groups in attendance, Stephens said.
“For four days straight there are performances 12 hours a day. It’s just immersion in musical events,” he said.
“The opportunity to perform at a convention, festival or during a tour creates a high impact experience for our students,” Schreuder said.
Taking students to perform for groups of music educators also benefits Chadron State by demonstrating the skills of CSC musicians.
“We serve as ambassadors for CSC. We let people know the good things that are happening at CSC,” Schreuder said.
All of the outreach activities can also become valuable recruiting tools for CSC’s music program.
“I speak to students frequently who attended a High Plains Festival in high school or saw one of our groups perform at a festival,” he said.
The direct contact between professors and students is important.
“The guest conducting is one of the more valuable ways to have direct contact with students who are high achieving in music, who may be more inclined to come here,” Stephens said. “We get the opportunity to interact with students and hopefully it creates interest in what we have.”
Once students decide to enroll at CSC, inviting them to become involved with music, even if it isn’t their primary field of study, brings benefits to both individuals and the community. Performing well in a musical group develops discipline which carries over to other activities, Stephens said.
“There’s a correlation between artistic involvement and cognitive ability,” he said. “You work at it, you develop the skill slowly, and gradually things start to build and come together. It’s a great microcosm of society. Working together is a benefit of musical involvement, regardless of (a student’s) profession.”