Music program starts fresh with concert

This Sunday, a new chapter in the history of Marquette’s music program will formally begin with a concert at the Varsity Theatre.

While the concert itself is nothing historic, the circumstances are. Jason Ladd, the new director of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra, will conduct his first concert, officially marking the first time in more than 70 years that Marquette has had two full-time directors in the music department.

Erik Janners, director of music, is the other.

As a full-time director, Ladd works with the orchestra, one of the symphonic bands and the pep band. Since his arrival in August, he said he’s been working to get a grip on the nature of the orchestra and its combination of students.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what the strengths and weaknesses are in the orchestra,” Ladd said.

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While Ladd said he now knows the capabilities of the orchestra pretty well, he now faces another conundrum: He ordered music for the entire school year in August, when he had no idea what the orchestra’s composition would be. Ladd said ordering new music could cost anywhere from $80 to $200, so he’ll be working with the music he’s already ordered.

John Shusterich, president of the Marquette Symphony Orchestra and a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he is glad to see the university take an interest in the music program. Along with hiring Ladd, Shusterich highlighted the university’s recent renovation of Varsity Theatre, completed this summer, and the addition of the music minor to the College of Communication as ways the university is improving the program.

“I think they’ve realized it’s a shame to let so much musical talent go to waste,” Shusterich said.

But Shusterich also said a department of two full-time faculty doesn’t even begin to compare to larger departments like biological sciences.

“There’s a lot of room to grow,” Shusterich said.

For its upcoming concert, the orchestra will be performing three main works: Gustav Holst’s “Brook Green Suite,” Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” and selections from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.” This is the first of four concerts the orchestra is scheduled to perform this school year, with another one scheduled for December, Shusterich said.

Violinist Madeleine Bien, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, pointed out the selections from “Carmen” as her favorites.

“It’s different stylistically than other things for symphonic orchestras,” Bien said.

She said it’s been nice to work with Ladd because of his devotion to the orchestra and availability outside of class. She noted that Ladd only recently received his doctorate.

“He’s really young, so he understands where we’re coming from as students,” Bien said.

Unlike Bien, Lyndsay Zwirlein, a junior in the College of Business Administration, has been in orchestra since 2008, when it was under the direction of Steven Rindt. She said both directors were very nice, but that rehearsals are structured differently under Ladd.

“I think he does a good job,” Zwerlein said.

The Sunday concert will begin at 2 p.m. in the Varsity Theatre. Admission is free, and the Marquette Symphonic Band will be performing with the orchestra.