In the minutes leading up to 7 p.m. the air is full of the scuffing of chairs across carpet, the metal scraping as music stands are unfolded, and the shuffling of sheet music being passed through the ranks. Two students wheel a pair of double basses from a back closet stuffed with instruments in black cases. Reeds are wetted and affixed to mouthpieces, and a chorus of metallic clicking accompanies the limbering of both fingers and keys. Bows are tested against strings as the players tuck violins against their cheeks. The students of the UT Dallas Wind Ensemble and String Orchestra, though they meet in different rooms, enact this ritual every week in order to prepare for rehearsal.
The orchestral ensembles are designed to enable all interested students, whatever their major, to integrate music performance into their education. Other performance opportunities include Vocal Ensembles, Jazz and Classical Guitar. The Advanced Chamber Music Ensemble, conducted by world-renowned composer Dr. Robert Xavier Rodríguez, professor of music and Chair in Art and Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas, performs each semester as Musica Nova.
The orchestra class has been around at UT Dallas for 10 years, half of that time under the stewardship of Hustis and Salisbury. In that time, the number of students enrolled has grown each semester.
Salisbury collects data showing the representation of different departments within the orchestra. The largest contributor is the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science with 45 percent, followed by the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at 14 percent, and both the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at 11 percent.
At the end of each semester, the ensembles and orchestras gather in the University Theatre to perform pieces months in preparation.
Students can also benefit from collaborating on musical arrangements. All of the students agreed that it takes more than rote participation for the pieces to come together — everyone contributes no matter their skill level.
“Do the Tuesday night rehearsals enhance the education of these students? Recently the parents of a graduating senior — a biochemistry major — wrote that their daughter’s ability to participate in the string and full orchestras during her academic career at UT Dallas has allowed her a rounded and truly enriched education,” Kratz said.
At UT Dallas, the creative arts are for everyone.