Wind Ensemble plays piece honoring victims of shooting

Allie Broockerd

School shootings and gun violence are topics that weigh heavily on American minds in light of recent events. Members of the Washburn Wind Ensemble have the opportunity to express feelings regarding these hot button issues through music.

Jim Stephenson, a well-known composer from Illinois, is visiting Washburn Monday, April 30 to mentor and listen to the band perform a piece he composed, “there are no words” which was meant to convey the range of emotions and aftermath that follow a shooting.

The piece is dedicated to the victims of a shooting that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. The shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where Dylann Roof, who was 21-years-old at the time, took the lives of nine people who were attending a Bible study session. The shooting was recognized as a hate crime, as Roof admitted to investigators that he was a white supremacist.

Stephenson recalled reacting to the shooting with mixed feelings of anger, sadness and frustration. He not only wanted to create a eulogy through music, but to convey the process of grief that follows the tragic circumstances of a shooting. Stephenson broke the piece up into five different stages. The violent act itself, shock, sadness, anger and forgiveness.

“Students are very touched at how Jim has been able to put the symbolism through music,” Robert Schwartz, interim director of bands, said. “I hope they’ve enjoyed playing it. It’s an easy piece to listen to, but it’s a hard piece to listen to emotionally.”

Schwartz said that he chose this specific piece for the band due to the constant headlines regarding school shootings in recent news. Kyam McCormack, senior music education and music performance major, described the piece as fitting and relevant, but also sensitive to the issue.

“The piece has very moving moments and you experience an emotional attachment to it,” McCormack said. “The nature of it is very gripping and engaging.”

Although the topic surrounding the piece is dark, Schwartz is thrilled for the opportunity to have Stephenson work with the band.

“I’m looking forward to hearing his expertise on what he was thinking when he wrote this,” Schwartz said. “This song really captures the essence of the tragedy that has went on.

The concert at which “there are no words” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. April 30 in White Concert Hall.

In addition to “there are no words,” Washburn’s Wind Ensemble will be playing other selections by Stephenson, Gregson, Ticheli and Vaughan Williams. The Honors Brass Quintet will also be featured on this concert.

Jim Stephenson will host a Q&A session 2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Monday, April 30 in the bandroom in Garvey Center for Fine Arts for anyone interested in learning more about his work.