Being in Blowsoc’s Wind Orchestra has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my university experience. Even way back when I was choosing a university to study at, as an avid saxophonist I knew I needed to be in a place with playing opportunities galore and high-standard orchestral ensembles that would let me in – there aren’t many pieces for the saxophone in a regular orchestra! So as soon as I saw that Nottingham had their very own student managed and led society just for wind (and percussion!) with an auditioned wind orchestra, I knew it was the place I wanted to be.

Taking the plunge to audition is scary as heck, I know, but you’ll never know where it will get you if you don’t give it a shot! There’s always a friendly face to smile at you on the panel and a laugh to be had with the committee and our professional conductor George Morton. And let me tell you now, after having auditioned and listened to every single member of this year’s orchestra play their auditions, every single person makes mistakes! Multiple mistakes! We’re only human, after all. Musicianship shines through nerves, so take it from me, stepping up and signing your name down for auditions is worth it.

Rehearsals in the Great Hall for the 2019 Wind Orchestra Summer Concert

Wind Orchestra rehearsals are one of my favourite times of the week. Honestly, there’s nothing better than such a huge unit of talented and dedicated musicians working together to create something wonderful. The sound we make as an orchestra after rehearsals with George is far bigger than the sum of its parts – and for the mathematicians of you who wish to tell me that’s impossible, I say you’re wrong! It may not be tangible, but I have to admit that the way each individual musician comes together into a group to make music is a little bit magical.

The summit of all this work is in our termly concerts, held on campus and all around Nottingham. We usually perform in the Great Hall of the Trent Building on University Campus in the winter term; our 2018 concert Winter Dances was honestly one of the most wonderful concerts I’ve performed. All the frantic work, the day-of-concert rehearsals, the frantic running around that the managers and Executive Committee have to do in the morning to set everything up, the chasing down of players, the hiring of vans and dragging of music stands just fell away when we all walked onstage and were just left with the music to show everything we had done that term.

Standing for applause at the national round of the NCBF!

What made last year even more exciting for us was our entry to the National Concert Band Festival, which was a very new experience for a large part of the ensemble. It was intimidating to play as a student ensemble and as representatives of Blowsoc and the University, but all in all it was so great to be able to share a bit of our hard work with other fantastic ensembles from all around Nottingham. Each band’s performance is marked against a set of criteria and not other bands – making the important distinction that the event is NOT a competition – and those who win the highest awards in the regional heats are invited to play in the national festival in Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music in April.

Showing off our Platinum award! From left to right: Blowsoc President 2018/19 Emma Nannery, Wind Orchestra Concerts Manager 2018/19 and 2019/20 Amber Frost, and Wind Orchestra Personnel Manager 2018/19 Matthew Walker

We were overjoyed to recieve a Platinum Award in our regional heat, which allowed us the opportunity to go to Manchester for the day at the start of Easter break! At the National festival we tackled a fearsome piece called Blue Shades by Frank Ticheli, and I think I speak for most members of the ensemble there when I say that we were beyond nervous! So then when the results were announced that the University of Nottingham’s Wind Orchestra had won a Platinum Award again, a massive roar of mad yelling and cheering erupted from the back of the hall where we were sat! I think it’s safe to say that compared to the dignified applause that had followed the previous award announcements, we were pretty pleased to have made it to Platinum at a national level!

Blowsoc Wind Orchestra 2018/19 – Year 1 Music students at the RNCM after winning Platinum!

Being a part of Blowsoc’s Wind Orchestra really is like being part of a lovely, very large family! I’ve made so many friends there and love every single member; I know every university must say this but Nottingham really has something special with Wind Orch.

If you have any more questions or inquiries about anything at all to do with Wind Orchestra, do feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Blowsoc love xx

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