University of South Carolina’s Wind Ensemble traveled to perform at the University of Georgia for the College Band Directors National Association Conference on Wednesday, its first visit in a decade. While each songs in the program was uniquely arranged, their final melody pays homage to Martin Luther King Jr.
The CBDNA is a conference that Dr. Cormac Cannon, the director of bands and conductor of the Wind Ensemble at USC, describes as one of the greatest honors a college ensemble can receive.
“It demonstrates the level of achievement of our School of Music, our students, and that they perform at a high level,” Cannon said. "It’s really an opportunity to celebrate our university and our students and share with our greater community.”
Alyssa Santiváñez, a first-year music performance master's student who is also a flutist in the Symphonic Winds concert band, said it has been great to meet and get to know all of the different members of the ensemble through the past semester. This conference allows Santiváñez and her fellow students to connect even further as they travel and perform together.
“(It’s) really exciting because our lives are really busy and always spread out, that I don’t get to see a lot of the students together all the time," said Santiváñez. “Traveling somewhere together and getting to know everybody more is really cool.”
Santiváñez is one of the narrators of New Morning for the World, a piece by Joseph Schwantner and Nikk Pilato. While the Wind Ensemble plays, she and Deshawn Stevens, a fourth-year music student with a performance certificate, will read text from speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. that he delivered during the civil rights movement.
Cannon said he believes King's words are a lesson that is still relevant to today’s world, just as it was 60 years ago, especially with one of King's statements used towards the end of the song, discussing “man's inhumanity to man.”
“We’re still trying to teach people to treat each other right," Cannon said. "That was what King talked about a lot. Just this basic fact of treating people the way they should be treated, and so I think that’s a theme that resonates very strongly through the music.”
Each narrator had a vision of what message they wanted to bring out with King’s words. Santiváñez said she wanted her words to reach her underrepresented communities.
“I really wanted to be a voice for women and specifically Latinx people," she said. "I feel that his words are still, not only powerful, but can apply to a lot of different people and events right now in the world.”
For Stevens, the role is a way to embrace King's words in the present.
“When I’m saying these words, I want people to not think about it like when it was during that time, (but to) put it in the perspective of what’s going on right now," Stevens said. "Martin Luther King’s writings are timeless."
The conference at the University of Georgia was the fourth and final stop on a tour that began at the Koger Center on Feb. 10. While they traveled to the conference, the band also performed for two high schools near Atlanta.