Union’s new orchestra finishes its first year strong

The Union University Orchestra has rehearsal Thursday evenings in preparation for their upcoming concert May 1, 2014, at 7:30 P.M. in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. | Photo by MiKalla Cotton
The Union University Orchestra rehearses for its May 1 concert at First Baptist Church in Jackson. | Photo by MiKalla Cotton

Two members of the Department of Music say their dream of Union having its own orchestra seemed far off just a couple of years ago.

They estimated the development of an orchestra on campus would take five to 10 years. However, several years ahead of schedule, the official Union University Orchestra came to fruition in fall 2013.

The two musically-inclined men behind this feat are Department of Music Chairman Chris Mathews and Michael Mann, assistant professor of music.

Mann was hired in fall 2011 to lead Union’s Symphonic Band, and Mathews shared his desire for the university to eventually have an orchestra.

Beginning in fall 2012, a small group of students who play stringed instruments performed. Soon after, though, brass, woodwinds and percussion sections were added to form a pilot orchestra in spring 2013.

After the pilot orchestra’s first concert, it became an official orchestra, and students who participated could receive course credit beginning in fall 2013.

Having made amazing progress, the orchestra will perform for the Paris String program in Paris, Tenn., in early May.

Mann said the orchestra’s progress can be attributed, largely, to “the hand of God.”

“There is really no other way to explain the immediate and rapid growth,” Mann said. “It has been a matter of prayer for the Lord to provide.”

Another reason for the progress, Mann said, has been the interest shown by students.

Music majors and non-majors alike have auditioned and joined the orchestra.

Furthermore, Mann said he believes when the entire university has knowledge of the orchestra’s existence, along with the existence of the symphonic and jazz bands, that they will be aware of the Union-provided “musical outlet.”

“In the last two years we have grown from a string ensemble to a full orchestra,” said Elizabeth Tomyn, a sophomore music major who plays first violin.

“I love being a part of the orchestra, and it is very exciting that Union has been able to grow this program this fast,” Tomyn said. “The string ensemble only began in 2011, so to be a full orchestra in two years is a really great accomplishment. Mr. Mann has done a great job in expanding the  program and in choosing repertoire that challenges us. We have grown a lot as a group and have put on several very successful concerts in the last year.”

Mathews said adding an orchestra to Union’s list of exceptional ensembles “not only boosts the reputation of the Department of Music and Union University but also provides many talented students from across the campus an opportunity to utilize their musical gifts while performing outstanding symphonic repertoire and interacting with one another, making memories that will last a lifetime.”

“I’m proud of Mr. Mann and all of the students who have worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality and look forward to how the Union University Orchestra, along with all of our ensembles,  impacts students, the community and the world with the message of the Gospel,” Mathews said.

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About Chelsea Cobb 29 Articles
Chelsea-Catherine Cobb is a Union University class of 2015 Public Relations and French major and Advertising Sales Manager and Staff Writer for the Cardinal and Cream. She loves her cat, a good pair of heels and a strong cup of coffee.