After months of preparation, Lehigh’s wind ensemble had its first concert of the year, led by a new director.
The ensemble is composed of a select group of students who play woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments. Darin Lewis is now serving as its director.
Lewis is not new to the Lehigh Valley — he works alongside Lehigh’s Marching 97 and at Lafayette and Muhlenberg colleges. This year he is a visiting professor at Lehigh, where his wife works and daughter attends.
In addition to directing the wind ensemble at Lehigh, Lewis is the student liaison for the Marching 97. He is currently teaching a Foundations of Music course.
The ensemble performed in Baker Hall at the Zoellner Arts Center on Nov. 20.
Lewis has directed orchestras and choirs. He has been conducting, composing or teaching music his entire life.
Lewis said the process of preparing a wind ensemble has multiple components. The first is auditions, where each student prepares a musical and lyrical piece. Then, students are put into positions based on their auditions.
He said this year was slightly different. One of the changes Lewis made was reducing the number of people in the ensemble.
“There are wind ensembles and then there are groups that are called wind ensembles,” Lewis said. “A true wind ensemble is one person per part, maybe two people on a part, so they have more personal responsibility instead of being one of 17 clarinets.”
For the first few weeks of the performance season, Lewis said the director can move players around to better suit their strengths. Eventually, the arrangement and pieces need to solidify, so final decisions are made.
The program attracted Aviana Reynard, ‘25, to Lehigh.
“Going into college, I knew I wanted to play,” Reynard said. “I knew I wanted to play in a good ensemble, and Lehigh had that.”
Reynard now plays the clarinet in the ensemble.
Reynard said the students in the wind ensemble take the commitment seriously despite only practicing together once a week. Many take time out of their day to practice on their own in the private practice rooms.
When Lewis began directing the ensemble, he gave individual players more responsibility and changed the type of music they performed.
Lewis’ predecessor, David Diggs, had been a faculty member at Lehigh since 1998. Lewis said switching directors is not easy to do, as both have different teaching styles and goals.
Lewis said he has focused on the level of professionalism at concerts and has moved the group away from the marching pieces that were previously performed.
“(Professor Lewis) is very particular about how things sound,” musician Quan Hoang, ‘21, said.
Lewis has found it challenging to encourage students to enjoy themselves while remaining applied. He said this is a common issue, and one any director, coach or leader encounters.
He said finding the balance between having fun and doing difficult, uncomfortable and inconvenient things that nobody wants to do is not easily solved.
Lewis said his teaching style aims to break complex concepts down into smaller, more simple concepts. Yet sometimes, students sometimes have issues outside of Lewis’s area of expertise, such as if they play an instrument he is not familiar with. For example, Hoang plays the euphonium, a brass instrument similar to the baritone horn.
Lewis said Lehigh’s music department helps him to support his musicians. Many of the musicians take private lessons, allowing for Lewis to ask the tutors to help the student with a specific part.
The ensemble is currently in the process of creating a CD for purchase. Updates can be found at the group’s website.
“The beauty of Lehigh is the students are very smart,” Lewis said. “So, though they may not have a certain skill they might need, they are smart enough to learn. They can do it.”