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Upcoming conference performances signal strengths in Schwob School’s ensemble programs

COLUMBUS, Georgia — A quartet of upcoming conference performances by ensembles in the Joyce and Henry Schwob School of Music will place Columbus State University students center stage nationally and internationally. Performances of this caliber spotlight the school’s strengths while developing students’ musical interests and talents.

“It’s a great honor for our students and faculty to be invited to perform at these venues — and a huge opportunity for students to participate in activities that will advance their understanding and knowledge of the profession. Touring is something all great schools of music do, and we’re proud to share the artistry of the Schwob School widely,” said Dr. Scott Harris, the school’s Barbara C. and Clifford J. Swift III Director.

Under the direction of Dr. David Hahn, the Schwob Singers is the school’s flagship auditioned SATB choral ensemble and is comprised of 35 undergraduate and graduate students majoring in both music and other disciplines. The Schwob Singers was invited to be the in-residence choir for the Graduate Conducting Masterclass at the upcoming National Collegiate Choral Organization’s National Conference, to be hosted at Atlanta’s Morehouse College in November.

That’s especially meaningful for Columbus State, as this year’s biennial national conference is the organization’s first in-person gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with the conference’s setting at Morehouse, a historically Black institution, the Schwob Singers’ performance will specifically showcase the exceptional works of underrepresented composers such as Undine Smith Moore, Adolphus Hailstork, Marques L. A. Garrett and Robert Harris.

“The invitation itself is a testament to the high caliber of Schwob Singers and reflects the recognition of our choral and vocal program within the collegiate choral community,” said Hahn, who is the school’s Paul S. and Jean R. Amos Distinguished Chair in Music. “Performing at such a prestigious event can be a source of inspiration for the students because it showcases what can be achieved through hard work and dedication — motivating them to excel in their own musical pursuits.”

Jada Smith (pictured), a sophomore music education major with a choral concentration from Warner Robins, Georgia, credits her time with the Schwob Singers with enhancing her classroom studies and expanding her potential.

“Performances such as this help me apply what I’m learning not only in my ensemble, but my everyday music classes. It also helps with performing solo, since appearing in front of new audiences has helped me so much with controlling my nerves and how to be an effective communicator of what I’m singing,” the mezzo-soprano said, “To have the opportunity to perform for NCCO with Schwob Singers is something I never would've seen myself doing this early in my musical career.”

In December, the Schwob Chamber Winds Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Jamie Nix, will travel to Chicago, where it will be the featured ensemble at the International Band and Orchestra Festival’s Midwest Clinic. The 18-student ensemble — comprised of an octet and a dectet — includes the Schwob School’s top music majors and wind instrument specialists.

“The Midwest Clinic in Chicago is the largest of its kind, attracting 20,000 attendees from all over the world,” said Nix, who is the school’s Hal J. Gibson Distinguished Chair in Conducting. “Being selected specifically to participate in the Reynolds Conducting Institute part of the clinic is particularly noteworthy because it validates the artistic goals we have been pursuing in [the] Schwob [School of Music] over the years, and it highlights our hard-working students’ commitment to music-making at the highest level.”

“Being able to work with both our own musician-mentors and the artists at the Reynolds Institute affords me the opportunity to continue developing my skills as an ensemble musician and aspiring conductor in a new environment,” added E. Yuji Jones (pictured) of Springfield, Ohio, who is pursuing a master of music degree in wind conducting. “We students will be able to grow further into the eventual professional musician we all at the Schwob School of Music hope to become in a deeper and more effective way through incredible opportunities like this one.”

With passports in hand, the Schwob Trombone Ensemble will head to Korea in January 2024 as the invited participant for the Korean Trombone Symposium. The 15-member ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Brad Palmer, will perform a featured concert and take part in the symposium as participants.

“This performance will be the culmination of a year-long cultural and musical exchange,” said Palmer, a professor of trombone, adding that the ensemble’s previous international performances in Hong Kong and Germany and its seven million-plus YouTube views have increased its popularity.

In June 2023, the Korean Trombone Choir was the featured guest ensemble at the Southeast Trombone Symposium hosted by the Schwob School of Music, where they also recorded a full-length CD in Legacy Hall and interacted with Schwob trombonists.

“The Schwob Trombone Studio has been an integral part of my time at Columbus State. Performing with the CSU Trombone Ensemble always challenges me both mentally and physically and has continually pushed me to become a better musician,” said senior music performance major Austin Murray, a Macon, Georgia, native.

“The repertoire we prepare for concerts takes lots of focus in rehearsals and in the performance, and fine-tuning every detail trains my ears to become more and more perceptive each day,” he continued. “As a senior, having the opportunity to perform a big concert like this with my friends and colleagues and in a completely new place will truly be a lifelong memory.”

To aid in underwriting the costs associated with its Korean Trombone Symposium performance, the ensemble has established an online giving campaign through the CSU Foundation. Gifts to this fund are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Rounding out upcoming scheduled performances is the Schwob Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be the featured performance at the Georgia Music Educators Conference this January in Athens. Under the direction of Paul Hostetter and acknowledged as one of the finest ensembles in the Southeast, the Philharmonic is currently comprised of 104 undergraduate and graduate student instrumentalists drawn from 17 states around the U.S. and 20 other countries.

“A benefit of this type of performance, and related performances we will offer on tour, is that our students will have a chance to play the music in multiple concerts rather than just one time. This deepens our students’ understanding of the pieces, helps them play with a more focused chamber music aesthetic, and perhaps most importantly, gives them a chance to know their peers more fully, as tours put people together in close proximity,” said Hostetter, the Ethel Foley Distinguished Chair in Orchestral Activities. “This shared experience is something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Megan Castaneda ’23, who completed her master of music in clarinet performance in Spring 2023 and is now pursuing a graduate-level artist diploma in the school, agreed that performing in venues outside Columbus State’s Legacy Hall helps her grow in confidence as a musician.

“Having the opportunity to perform in front of a different crowd and venue than what I am used to encourages my growth as a performer,” the Fayetteville, Georgia, native said. “Adapting is a substantial part of being a musician, and these opportunities help me to reach outside of my comfort zone with a much larger crowd of musicians, performers and educators alike.”


As Schwob School of Music musicians tour the state, nation and world, they carry the Columbus State University name with them — making them effective ambassadors for the university.

“To have so many ensembles invited as participants in major showcase events in a single year is a testament to the level of artistry at the Schwob School and the increasing awareness of the stature of its programs,” Harris emphasized.

For those whose core interests are in a music-focused career, however, touring performances such as these are essential to recruitment and retention — of students and faculty alike.

“Both students and faculty want the opportunity to travel and perform, and when they do, they invariably have the chance to engage with prospective students who are considering where they want to study,” Harris said. “We have no more effective recruitment method than getting our performers, scholars and teachers in front of diverse audiences.”

Hostetter noted that these groups provide greater support to the university’s student recruitment efforts.

"Because members of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra will be attending the Georgia Music Educators Conference as well as directors of virtually all high school music programs, we have a tremendous recruiting opportunity for our institution. When our students perform at a world-class level, they encourage interest in Columbus State University’s many excellent programs.”

Harris also pointed out that, without philanthropic support from the school’s alumni, patrons and donors, that travel — and the caliber of the school’s student and faculty talents — would be non-existent.

“Schwob School donors make these experiences possible. We simply wouldn’t be able to share our student-musicians’ talents with the wider professional world without the generous support we receive from the many friends who invest in our students, our faculty, and our programs,” he said.

All the school’s ensembles are audition-only opportunities for current and prospective students. Auditions are part of the admissions process for students applying to study in the Schwob School of Music. Once admitted, currently enrolled students audition for placement in major ensembles, as well as other ensembles and studios that include contemporary music, jazz, opera, musical theatre, and single or specific instruments.

“Both large and small ensemble experiences are core studies for any music major,” Harris said, “and most students participate in more than one ensemble every semester they are here.”

Through the Schwob School of Music, which is based in the College of the Arts, students can choose from more than a dozen bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, minors and certificate options. Enrollment in the school is consistently around 250 students, meaning students receive personalized attention from faculty who are themselves distinguished and award-winning musicians.

Students interested in enrolling in the Schwob School of Music or auditioning for its many ensembles can learn more on the school’s website.