Mentoring Monday: Ensembles. Ensembles. Ensembles

Ensembles. Ensembles. Ensembles.
Michael W. Pettis, School of Music Mentor

What ensembles are there?
There are over 20 ensembles to participate in your career at WCU. In the choral department is the standard Men and Women’s Chorus, both separate by gender. The is also Cantari Donne which is a higher level Women’s Chorus, that usually partners with Men’s chorus for a combined concert at the end of semester. The next level from those choirs is Mastersingers, which is standard SATB. At the top of these choirs in the Concert Choir, which is also SATB. Out of these choirs, there are also smaller ensembles that student are able to participate in, for credit or for fun. Vocal Jazz, also called Chamber Choir and Opera Theater. In the band/(orchestra) department, there are several wind band ensembles, and one orchestra. The biggest of these ensembles is the 324+ WCU Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band. Indoors, the Basketball band, which is about 40 people large, and has made a huge impact on the basketball teams and school morale. There is the Concert Band, which is usually half of the marching band size. Next up is the Wind Symphony, which resembles more of wind ensemble like size. Then the orchestra, that consists of all of the string instrumentalist, and a small wind section and percussion. At the top of this list (for some wind instrumentalist/percussionist) is the Wind Ensemble consisting of about 55+ people.

Other than those large ensembles there are also smaller instrumental ensembles. Brass Ensemble; Trumpet Ensemble, Horn Ensemble, Flute Ensemble, Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, Brass Quintets, Clarinet Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Strings, String Quartets, String Quintets, Trombone Ensemble Woodwind Quintet, and Chamber Winds.

On the other side of the world, there are a couple of jazz groups as well. There are about 2 – 3 jazz combos, which are made up of started rhythm section instrumentation and any other instruments that meet the audition requirement. There is a Latin Jazz Group and two big bands. They are the Statesmen Jazz Ensemble and Criterions Jazz Ensemble, being the more advance group of the two.

When do auditions happen?
Auditions for all wind band instrumentalist happen on the Sunday before school starts. Results follow suite, because…well school starts the next day. Vocal ensembles have their auditions Sunday, Monday, Tuesday of the first week of school. Jazz Auditions are usually held the first Monday and Wednesday night of the first week of school.

What is required to graduation?
All majors have a number of required semesters of ensembles. Small ensembles do not count for some majors. Most people continue to be in ensembles until they graduate due to the opportunities and experience that they have already received from being in the ensemble. Check your handbooks and with your mentors to find out more information

Websites for the two perspective groups?
For Band go to
For Choir go to

My favorite ensemble?
My favorite ensemble has to be Wind Ensemble for a couple obvious and on so obvious reasons. For the obvious reasons, it is a talented group of individuals who get to play pieces that can be technically hard, harmonically hard, and rhythmically hard and still do an awesome job at them. There are also a lot of performance opportunities. This spring the Wind Ensemble made a trip to Boston to perform at the CBNDA Conference at The New England Conservatory. For some of the not so obvious reasons, Wind Ensemble pushes you to be better. Because this ensemble has a high standard of achievement, every member knows they are accountable for their part in this ensemble and that their part matters. Also, the friendships made in this ensemble will be the kind that will only get stronger as the semester goes on. Also, the learning aspect of this ensemble can really give inspiratins on how you can teach your ensemble and bring them to the next level. Ultimately, the ensembles are what you make it out to be. If you want to be in a great performing ensemble, then do it. Practice.


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