RIT Music Program Flourishes with Student Passion

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Jen Moon

Every academic quarter between 500 and 600 students are involved in some way with the music program in Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Liberal Arts.

Student interest and university need have shaped the music offerings at RIT from a tiny two-professor operation 24 years ago to a thriving program in the department of fine arts. Four full-time faculty members and a crew of adjunct professors reflect the students’ energy and enthusiasm.

“We have a lot of students who are very interested in making music and making music part of their lives,” says Edward Schell, associate professor and director of the music program at RIT.

The various ensembles give students a musical outlet and balance to their academic lives. The groups include the RIT Singers, four a cappella groups (three men’s, Eight Beat Measure, Surround Sound, Brick City Singers; and one women’s, Encore), RIT Orchestra, RIT Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble, and the World Music Ensemble and World Beat Ensemble.

These groups perform regularly throughout the academic year, sometimes teaming up with musicians from other schools or community groups, such as the Brighton Community Orchestra, and participating in collegiate competitions. A variety of upcoming performances—most of them free—will start with the RIT Choral Ensembles’ Winter Concert, “Come Said the Muse,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, in Ingle Auditorium in the Student Alumni Union. (See list of performances at the end of this press release.)

Students also take advantage of the music concentration and minor, and one-credit private lessons. The latter started with one section of voice and piano, and grew to include woodwind and strings. “We have waiting lists every quarter,” Schell says.

According to Schell, students active in the music program typically spend from two to 14 hours a week practicing, depending on their level of involvement. As busy as they are with classes, they find the time.

“We learn so much from each other in all of the different groups, and even though it gets tough at times, it is completely worth all of the hard work in the end,” says Brittney Lee, a member of Encore and RIT Singers, and a fourth-year animation major.

Elizabeth Fehrmann, a fourth-year computer engineering major and Encore member, adds: “Engineering is a difficult major, and so participating in singing gives me a chance to relax and take my mind off of the hard stuff for a little while each week. In a major such as computer engineering, where the population is overwhelmingly male, being in Encore gives me a close-knit group of girls to talk to, hang out with, and share my love of singing with.”

“As the director of the Brick City Singers, I have also gained valuable leadership and team building skills,” says Tom Guzewich, a fourth-year software engineering major. “Being a part of these groups is an outlet for other interests I have which are not strictly a part of my area of study at RIT.”

Schell knows the music program makes a big difference in students’ lives. He regularly receives e-mails from graduates who miss being part of the musical groups at RIT and the camaraderie they offered. “We turn out some happy alumni.”

Music at RIT—Upcoming performances will include:

  • Feb. 19—RIT Choral Ensembles’ Winter Concert: Come Said the Muse, Including music by Jacob Handl, Josquin des Prez, Michael Mendoza, Emma Lou Diemer, George Gershwin and others, 3 p.m., Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union.
  • Feb. 24—RIT Voice and Piano Students’ Recital, 1 p.m., SAU Music Room, A120
  • Feb. 25—RIT Orchestra Winter Concert: Taking Stock; music by Mozart (Overture to Don Giovanni) and Elgar (Enigma), 3 p.m., Ingle Auditorium, SAU
  • Feb. 25—Invitational Winter Concert; RIT’s Surround Sound with guest collegiate a cappella groups, 8 p.m., Webb Auditorium, James E. Booth Building, $3 admission
  • Feb. 26—RIT Concert Band and Jazz Ensembles: Winter Concert, 3 p.m., Ingle Auditorium, SAU
  • March 31—RIT Voice and Piano Students: All Mozart Recital—Celebrating the 250th Anniversary of Mozart’s Birth, 1 p.m., SAU Music Room, A120

For more information, contact Edward Schell, at 475-6087.