Western Carolina University – Students travel to Prague for a musical lecture and performance at Žofín Palace

By Tom Lotshaw

Seven music students from Western Carolina University travel to Prague in July, invited by the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles to attend its international conference and perform with its Youth Wind Orchestra.

Ethan Rohl

grace pressley

Grace Pressley

Making the trip to the “City of a Hundred Spires” are sophomore Roberto Bell (bass trombone); juniors Harrison Burcham (trombone), Thomas Long (trombone) and Keaton Shaw (saxophone); and seniors Vito Bell (trumpet), Grace Pressley (saxophone) and Ethan Rohl (horn).

“It’s going to be huge for students,” said Assistant Professor Margaret Underwood, Director of Groups at WCU, who will also be attending the conference. “They will be able to build international relationships and perform at a very high level. This event attracts the best of the best from around the world.

Harrison Burham

Harrison Burham

Keaton Shaw

Keaton Shaw

The association is an international non-profit group for conductors, composers, performers, publishers, teachers and instrument makers. Its biennial conference is a symphonic wind music festival that brings together the world’s top wind musicians, ensembles and conductors, along with scholars, to improve the quality of wind orchestras and expose attendees to new music, people and places.

Students attending the conference will work with renowned conductors, composers and soloists during a week of intensive musical creation. The repertoire will pay homage to Czech music and its Bohemian, Moravian and Lachian origins, according to the association.

Robert Bell

Robert Bell

Thomas Long

Thomas Long

The July 18-24 event will conclude with a concert by the Youth Wind Orchestra at Žofín Palace, for which the students will spend the week rehearsing and then performing. Conductors Tim Reynish from the UK and Marek Prášil from the Czech Republic will conduct the orchestra.

Other attendees at this year’s conference will include special guest “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, which was established by the US Congress in 1798 and performs for the US President, and guest of honor from the Prague Castle Guard and the Czech Police Band.

Vito Bell

Vito Bell

This year’s conference also celebrates 101 years since the birth on August 7, 1921, of composer Karel Husa in Prague. Husa emigrated to Paris and then to the United States, where he composed, conducted and taught. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969. One of his most famous works is “Music for Prague 1968”. He wrote the play that was widely performed when Soviet Union troops invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress a mass protest and reform movement in Prague.

Berta D. Wells