While walking up to the Yuba College Theatre to attend the Spring Instrumental on April 28, one could see a long line that stretched from the ticket booth inside the building to the outside steps.
In this line stood students, former students, parents and people from all walks of life who for this one night had one thing in common: they were about to hear some of the greatest music ever composed. The Yuba College Spring Instrumental sells out every year, and this year was no exception.”When I first came here there were not many people coming to the concerts,” said Dr. Allen Glenn Miller, Yuba College professor of music and Director of the Spring Instrumental. “But now I think that we do a really diverse, fun program, mixing up very serious music and literature with marches and musicals.”
Miller continued, “We try to keep it real diverse and keep it moving, and people seem to really enjoy that.”
The audience was in a great mood at the beginning of the night, laughing and conversing while they were waiting for the music to begin. The only complaint from the crowed had to do with the lack of air conditioning in the building. But that ended quickly when members of the Yuba College Symphonic Band started taking the stage.
To the surprise of many, the symphonic band is comprised of musicians of all ages. “We have everything from high school honor students to one of our players who is 85 years old,” said Miller. “That’s what’s so nice about teaching at a community college.” The attentive audience applauded each member who graciously took their position. Once each member was set and ready to play, Miller took the stage to overwhelming applause. With his fingers gripped tightly around his baton and all of his students’ eyes focused on his every move, Miller wasted no time and jumped right into “Stars and Bars (Centennial).” This piece featured a powerful intro that led into a soft flow that led into an ending even stronger than the beginning. After the song ended, the audience showed their appreciation with warm applause. The band then plowed into a wonderful version of “Summon the Heroes” and the four-part “Second Suite in F Military Band” which was played masterfully. But by far the highlight of the evening was the Symphonic Band’s rendition of “Amazing Grace.” This composition instantly gave off a feeling of melancholy, but that somber tone was quickly transformed into an uplifting piece. The song invoked a strong sense of patriotism and emotion from the audience when a surprise bagpipe player, Kurt Barrd, appeared in the back of the room and started walking down the theater stairs to join the symphonic band. The audience was so moved that they started letting out whistles and cheers before the song was over. Some could even bee seen wiping tears away from their eyes.
After a 15-minute intermission, it was the Yuba College Jazz Ensemble’s turn to show the room how to swing. Dr. Miller grabbed his trombone and lead the way through the band’s first song, a Gershwin piece titled “Strike Up The Band.” The room’s hot, muggy, and humid feel that was a nuisance during the Symphonic performance added to the southern atmosphere for the Jazz Ensemble’s performance. Through their music and energy, The Jazz Ensemble let the audience know it was okay to roll up their sleeves and let loose. “We play everything from the 40’s swing to popular funk rock and keep it movie and have fun,” said Miller. “I think once the audience comes to a concert like that, they seem to want to come back.”
Miller continued, “A lot of my students from my music appreciation and jazz appreciation classes come (to the performances) because they have to write a report on different concerts, but once they come they’re hooked, and now I have students that were in my classes 10 years ago that are still coming with their families.”
The songs that the Yuba College Symphonic Band and the Jazz Ensemble performed played off of each other perfectly. The music weaved in and out of fast paced pieces that made the audience want to jump from their seats and dance to the more heartfelt songs that had the audience admiring the beauty of the compositions.
When asked about song selection, Miller said, “My hardest job is picking the literature. What I do is get a wide range (of literature) and we read through a lot of it.”
“And from that I cut out what I don’t think will work for us, what weren’t good arrangements, and I keep the ones that the students are learning something positive from.”
Miller continued, “Yet it’s really good music which is the bottom line. It has to be really good literature.”