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April 30, 2013

The Sequester Hits the Arts; the Hopkins Center Responds With Rock

DCWEThanks to quick, hey-wait-a-minute-this-sucks thinking on the part of our elected officials in Washington, D.C., the airborne public may now have enough air-traffic controllers on duty to handle our summer vacations. Not to mention the frequent-flyer jaunts to and from said elected officials' home states. Ahem.

But that isn't going to help the West Point Band. Long scheduled to perform at the Hopkins Center with the elite 50-member Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, the players are now limited to gigs within 100 miles of the U.S. Military Academy. Pentagon's orders. Why? You guessed it: the federal budget sequester.

"No engagements outside of a 100-mile radius of West Point that weren't of the highest priority, and a concert at a college campus simply didn't make the cut," writes the Hop's publicity coordinator, Rebecca Bailey, in an email. "Oh, well," she adds philosophically, "at a time when the sequester is hitting social services and other programs for the neediest folks, we certainly can't cry buckets."

True dat. But the college musicians didn't take this lying down — no, sir. Instead, Bailey informs us, "The Wind Ensemble drew on the rebellious spirit of rock 'n' roll, and used this as an opportunity to blow the roof off Spaulding [Auditorium] with works by young composers inspired by rock."

Which makes total sense: When you can't get the army, bring in some attitude.


The DCWE's May 4 concert, aptly titled "Rock 'n' Winds," is the culminating event in honor of the Hop's 50th anniversary. Ironically, the first piece in the program is Military Suite No. 1, written by Gustav Holst in 1920 and a staple of the concert-band repertoire. The ensemble will follow that up with Sleep, by the Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitaker (1999), which Bailey describes as "dreamy and lyrical"; and then with the "wild and energetic" Asphalt Cocktail by John Mackey (2009).

Next comes the rock: a "Led Zeppelin-esque fantasia" titled Black Dog, by Scott McAllister (2003). McAllister, incidentally, was born the same year that Zep first toured America: 1969. But I digress. DCWE director Matthew Marsit will perform the guitar parts on his clarinet. Heads up, Jimmy Page. 

"You can't keep a good band down," Bailey suggests. But, apparently, you can keep cadets close to home.

In the best rock tradition, the DCWE concert will include a light show. Marsit collaborated with grad students and faculty in the computer science and digital music programs to create special effects that "will underscore the musical dynamics," writes Bailey. Adds Marsit: “I really think this has the potential to be the finest show this ensemble has ever assembled.”

The Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble performs "Rock 'n' Winds" this Saturday, May 4, 8 p.m., at Spaulding Auditorium, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.



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