Flowing lyrical melodies with Honors Band

Michael Butler conducts YSU Wind Ensemble and high school students. Photo by Jessica Stamp / The Jambar

By Jessica Stamp

Echoing into Stambaugh Auditorium on Nov. 13, the Youngstown State University Wind Ensemble and local high school student musicians performed composer Michael Markowski’s music in the Side-By-Side Honors Band concert.

Fifty YSU students and 40 high school students got the chance to work with a professional composer, and learn what it is like to collaborate with these artists.

“It’s always a great opportunity that we as musicians get a chance to interact with living composers,” Michael Butler, director of bands, said. “Any chance you get to interact with them and get their feedback and their perspective about their music. It just really opens up a whole new world and allows us to really get into their mindset more about their craft.”

Butler said these events are important for recruiting high school students to YSU while also being beneficial for YSU and high school students in a learning aspect. 

“Students can look forward to the interaction with this composer and kind of hearing about the way he approaches composing and just his whole thought process … because every composer does it in a different way,” Butler said. 

Butler said one of Markowski’s pieces is a slow, lyrical piece which is another learning moment for students. 

“It just has this beautiful flowing melody, and any chance that musicians get to play melodies like that is always helpful for them to be able to work on their overall phrasing,” Butler said. 

Butler said a musician’s goal is always to get to people’s hearts with their music. 

Markowski is a New York composer and has known Butler for a number of years, even working with him a few times on music projects. Markowski said he was excited when Butler reached out to team up again for a YSU concert. 

Markowski also said seeing his music live and in person always excited him because it’s no longer something that is simply inside his head but comes to life.

“As a composer, we live so much in our heads, in isolation at our homes,” Markowski said. “This is where the music literally gets to come alive and I know that might sound cheesy but this is the fun part of my job. This is where we get to shape things and really create some really musical moments with the musicians that a computer just can’t really provide us.” 

Kate Ferguson, director of athletic bands, conducted musicians on stage and met Markowski a handful of times before and admired his music. Ferguson said she enjoyed working with Markowski and having him interact with the students. 

“[To] have an opportunity to work with the students on the pieces and hear what his intentions were exactly because it’s always up to us as the director and conductor to interpret that,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson said this Honors Band concert was different from other past concerts because YSU students and high school students played side-by-side instead of separate groups.

“Often Honors Band experiences are all high school students together just on their own and this has been an awesome experience for them because they actually get to sit next to our YSU students,” Ferguson said. 

Ferguson said it was nice to have everybody involved in the concert, from the band performing on the balcony to the students playing on the stage. 

Head over to the Dana School of Music’s Facebook page to see what other performances are coming up.