Dana’s 150th Anniversary Ends on a Strong Note

By Frances Clause

“O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana rang throughout Stambaugh Auditorium as the Dana Chorale, Voices of Youngstown State University and the YSU Wind Ensemble closed the Dana School of Music’s gala concert yesterday.

In celebration of Dana’s 150th anniversary, this final concert showcased a wide range of Dana ensembles that delved into the sound of different cultures.

“Balleilakka,” a Tamil piece composed by A.R. Rahman, gave the audience music of India and was performed by Voices of YSU and YSU’s Dance Ensemble.

“I used to frequently travel to Tamil Nadu because my aunt lives there, so that’s how I’m familiar with Tamil,” Saketh Malhotra, a graduate student who dedicated his semester to teaching “Balleilakka” to Voices of YSU members, said.

Malhotra said he was honored when Daniel Keown, assistant professor of vocal music education, asked him for assistance to make sure the Tamil lyrics were dictated correctly for the piece.

“I felt the warmth and welcome of all the [Voices of YSU] members right away,“ he said. “The piece itself is difficult for the students because of its fast tempo, and it’s like a tongue twister.”

Malhotra believes the success of “Balleilakka” came from the work members put in outside of the classroom, and the first couple of days were overwhelming, but improvements were made after taking time to digest every lyric.

“After class, we usually had a small conversation where I explained the backdrop of the song and about the music director for it,” he said, referring to A.R. Rahman.

Photos by Frances Clause/The Jambar

Six music composition students also put in countless hours of work outside of classes to compose “Sesquicentennial Suite” for this gala concert.

Alyssa Kordecki, Taylor Natoli, Brandon Hackimer, Brendan McEvoy, Max Franko and Juan Rodriguez collaborated on this piece, each of them composing a section that flows musically into the next.

Brendan McEvoy, a freshman music composition major, said the project started last spring semester when Stephen Gage, director of bands and orchestra, wanted a piece composed for the symphony orchestra to celebrate Dana’s anniversary.

“The piece shows off the different talents of each of the composers and just overall, the talent of the composition studio here,” he said.

McEvoy believes the piece was perfect for the Gala because each section has strong brass, lyrical moments that showcase the melody and intricate chords that capture the audience’s attention.

Alyssa Kordecki, a junior composition major, said the biggest challenge was the collaboration itself, as it was difficult to find a time to get together to work on the piece throughout the semester.

“Being in a program with relatively few musicians makes it a bit of a challenge for us to have our music rehearsed and performed,” she said. “So, this performance is a great opportunity to have all our hard work noticed.”

The composition students involved also had a piece of Dana’s history in mind, while constructing their section of the work, and it tells the story of the music school that continues to produce generations of professional musicians.

“I’m just very proud to be a part of this music school, and seeing how far the program has come is inspiring,” Kordecki said.