Wind ensemble to perform overseas for first time

By Ben Hyatt

While students enjoy the beginning of summer break, the UK Wind Ensemble will travel to perform overseas for the first time in school history.

The U.S.-China Cultural and Educational Foundation invited the UK ensemble to perform around the country in May as a part of cultural and musical showcase festivals related to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, said Cody Birdwell, UK director of bands.

“I believe that this is the first time that the UK band has ever traveled overseas for a performance,” Birdwell said. UK Wind Ensemble is the only American collegiate music ensemble to be invited by the foundation.

Sixty students will travel on the two-week trip to China that will also consist of seven other performing groups including an Irish Celtic ensemble that will play with UK.

The cultural and educational organization heard the ensemble’s album, “Distilled in Kentucky: Premiers from the Bluegrass State,” which was recommended for a grammy nomination.

The performances in China will be held at such places like the Beijing National Conservatory and at Renmin University, also in Beijing, Birdwell said. The group will also have the chance to visit the Forbidden City (an imperial palace) and the Great Wall of China.

“I don’t know where all we are playing in China, it could be as many as three different cities,” Birdwell said.

Katherine Alberts, an oboe player and musical arts graduate student, said she is excited about the trip not only for the opportunity to travel overseas but also because she “gets to perform in front of big crowds as well.”

Birdwell said the ensemble will practice for the trip for the remainder of the semester, “brushing up on their repertoire to deliver a spectacular performance overseas and leave a print in the minds of those who hear them.”

“We are playing music that we already know, like ‘Star Wars,’ ” Birdwell said. “Music like that is loved by everyone so I don’t see the people of China being confused about what we are playing.”

The U.S.-China Cultural and Educational Foundation has given $30,000 to help fund the trip and the group has started to fundraise to cut the remaining costs, Birdwell said.

The ensemble is looking forward to this opportunity to become better known around the world, Birdwell said.

“When you think of UK, you think of basketball,” Birdwell said. “(UK Wind Ensemble) wants to be known for our hard work as well.”