Music to Parkland College’s 50th anniversary

Destiny Norris

Staff Writer

Anyone who’s walked through Parkland any time this year has likely noticed the signs marking the college’s big and upcoming birthday.

The year 2017 marks the 50th year of Parkland’s establishment as a college and place of learning. Parkland will be celebrating the anniversary with many different events, including an upcoming joint band and orchestra concert called “Celebrating Parkland: Fabulous at 50!”

On Sunday, May 7, band director Larry Stoner and orchestra director Rodney Mueller will join forces to put on the concert. Including a wide range of different musical compositions, Mueller hopes it will be an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon of music.

“Personally, I am looking forward to performing the Copland and Schubert, both pieces which are very different stylistically, but great music,” says Mueller.

The concert band will be performing “March for the Sultan Abdul Medjid,” by Giiochino Rossino, arranged by Douglas Townsend; “Sheep May Safely Graze,” by Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged by Alfred Reed; “First Suite in Eb,” by Gustav Holst; “Walking Tune” by Percy Grainger, arranged by Larry Daehn; “Olympia Hippodrome March” by Russell Alexander; and “The Quest,” by Robert W. Smith.

Mueller’s orchestra will be performing Fanfare and Celebration by Claude T. Smith; music from the film score “Our Town” by Aaron Copland; “Sinfonie Nr. 8, the Unfinished Movement 1” by Franz Schubert; and “Seventy-Six Trombones from The Music Man,” by Meredith Wilson.

“I looked for an opening piece that was celebratory in nature to highlight Parkland’s 50th anniversary,” Mueller said. “Fanfare and Celebration begins with an ‘orchestral fanfare’ to begin the concert.”

“When I choose music, I need to think about both the performers and the audience,” Mueller says. “I look for a variety of styles in what I program so that hopefully there is something that will appeal to everyone.” 

Mueller says he also looks at music within the grasp of the orchestra, but will be challenging, as well,

Historically, the orchestra has grown from strings with some woodwinds and French horns and trumpets to the romantic era orchestra with an expanded woodwind, brass and percussion section.

“I tend to program music that allows all of the players who come to play [it],” Mueller says.

His attitude of inclusion applicably reflects Parkland’s values.

Mueller took over the job of conductor after retiring from instructing in Champaign Unit 4 Schools in 2015. He used to be in the orchestra himself.

“I previously played in the cello section, having started there in 2003 when Jack Ranney was the conductor,” Mueller said.

This experience gives Mueller an edge as the new conductor, as he knows what it’s like to be in the place of his musicians.

“The 2nd and 3rd piece each come from feedback the orchestra has given me over the past year,” Mueller says, “as I have asked them to list repertoire they would like to play.”

It helps for the orchestra members to enjoy what they’re playing, because, as Mueller says, “the level of commitment is quite high. They are orchestra members because the love to play their instrument in an orchestra.” 

There are 46 instrumentalists who make up the Parkland orchestra, says Mueller. This includes Parkland College students, U of I Graduate Students, and community members, working and retired, from many walks of life.

May 7’s concert will take place in the Harold and Jean Miner Theatre in the C-wing of the college. Admission is free and all are welcome. The concert, and celebration, will commence at 3 p.m.