Five youthful musicians roam the stage unfettered by music stands or chairs, bobbing and swaying to the music they are so effortlessly performing. It might be a Billy Joel or Broadway tune, Bernstein’s Candide or a Maslanka quintet. They might be garbed in costumes, furry ears, jeans or colorful, more formal attire, depending on the mood and audience. Sometimes their movement is choreographed. Others times, it is spontaneous and free.
This “upstart wind quintet,” this “rebel chamber ensemble” – as media have called the Houston-based WindSync – is dedicated to its mission to “enrich the lives of children, families and community members through innovative, interactive chamber music,” quintet founder and bassoonist Tracy Jacobson told Arts + Culture Texas.
“We’ve carved a niche for ourselves as specialists in interactive concerts, that is to say, we incorporate bits of choreography, poetry, theater and singing into our performances, as well as audience participation,” says Jacobson, who started the ensemble in 2009 with musicians, like herself, from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. “We pretty much operate under the principle of playing only music we absolutely love and never program music just for the sake of it being standard or traditional. We also like performing in smaller, intimate and unconventional performance spaces. It lets our concerts take on a really casual and fun vibe.”
While not as unconventional as a horse park, café or farmers market, ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium stage will be WindSync’s venue Tuesday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. as will Mathes Hall 107 for a master class the following day at 12:35 p.m. Both events are sponsored by Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.
“This relatively young group is getting a lot of attention these days because of the high quality of their performances and unique style,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “We and our audience seem to connect well with chamber music ensembles, and WindSync brings chamber music with a twist, a little different repertoire, not straightforward classical music, rather an exciting fusion of styles.”
The group’s program at ETSU will include WindSync’s own arrangements of a Mozart fantasia, Ravel, Bernstein and Piazzolla, as well as works by Respighi and Taffanel.
Hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “revolutionary chamber musicians,” WindSync has been recognized for its adventurous programming by Concert Artists Guild, winning the 2012 Sylvia Ann Hewlett Adventurous Artist Prize and its 2012 Victor Elmaleh Competition. In addition to a transcontinental tour, the ensemble made its New York debut at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in November 2013.
“WindSync is a creative process,” Jacobson says. “We love to explore new repertoire, theatricality and even costuming, pushing the boundaries of wind quintet playing.”
Misha Penton of Arts + Culture called the ensemble’s repertoire “a gold-mine … seemingly boundless,” as unrestrained as their activity, on stage and in their whirlwind scheduling.
WindSync combines its active/interactive approach to reaching all people with classical music with a commitment to education and arts engagement. The group has represented Young Audiences of Houston, an arts program that applauded WindSync for its "extraordinary ability to connect students, educators, administrators and parents in a powerful and meaningful way," and was a Music for Autism 2012 Spotlight Artist, performing in five U.S. cities for audiences with special needs. Their latest initiative is The Play Different Project, a campaign against bullying, launched in spring 2013.
The quintet’s musicians themselves are all under 30. Their energy is natural and infectious. "Many people come up to us and quote our mission back to us. 'Wow, you're bring a fresh energy to classical music,’ ” horn player Anni Hochhalter told Fox 26 news in Houston.
The 5-year-old group has big plans for the coming years, says flutist Garrett Hudson. “We dream big,” he says, “and we are hoping that we will be holding a Grammy one day or touring the world.”In addition to Jacobson, Hochhalter and Hudson, Erin Tsai plays oboe for WindSync, and Jack Marquardt is the clarinetist.
For more on WindSync visit its website, www.windsync.org.
Tickets for the Tuesday evening concert are $15 general admission, $10 senior 60+ and $5 for students of all ages. The master class Wednesday is free and open to auditors.
For information about the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts or the WindSync events, call 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. “Like” ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts on Facebook and follow it on Twitter and Instagram @ArtsAtETSU.