President's Concert celebrates students' talent

February 27, 2011

North Bethesda, Md. -- Friday night was a memorable one for roughly 110 students who are members of some of the top music ensembles at Penn State, as they performed in the fifth annual Penn State President's Concert. The event, which featured a string trio at a pre-concert Alumni Association reception and showcased the Concert Choir, Centre Dimensions Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE) for the main event, took place this year at the Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda, Md.

The students have worked hard to prepare for the event, and their efforts paid off. "I thought the concert tonight went really, really well. I think it was the best we played so far this semester," said junior Matt Piatek, a music education major who plays trumpet in SWE and Centre Dimensions. "Playing in a venue like this is a huge honor. To be able to play in a hall with such great acoustics, and just the entire environment, it's an absolute joy."

Caroline Harris, a first year master's student who plays French horn in SWE, agreed. "I thought the performance went really well. It was great to play in such an awesome venue. We don't have places like that on campus. This is a professional hall, and it was awesome to play here, and have the electricity flowing throughout the group," she said.

The audience, made up largely of alumni, parents and prospective students, also was impressed with the performance.

"It's wonderful," said 1971 alumnus Bob Wirth of the concert. "We live in the Washington, D.C., area and we come to the Strathmore all the time. This is our home concert center, so to have Penn State here is fantastic."

Wirth attended the concert with his family, including daughter and son-in-law Jeanine and Matt Wlezien, both of whom are School of Music alumni. Matt performed in the first President's Concert, at Heinz Hall in 2007, as a master's student, and Jeanine said they try to see the President's Concert when they can. "We saw them perform in the Kennedy Center a few years ago. It's nice to be able to see them again here in the Strathmore. It's a great hall."

Having an audience made up of so many alumni – especially alumni from the School of Music, means a lot to the students who perform in the concert. "At the same time it's stressful, because they have high expectations," said senior trumpet player Caleb Thomas, a music performance major who plays in both SWE and Centre Dimensions. "Playing to our alumni is exciting, but it's also stressful because you know they come from a great background that you're now going through, so you hold yourself to a higher standard."

Dan Yoder, director of jazz studies at Penn State and director of Centre Dimensions, values the experience these concerts give to students. "I think it's a great opportunity for students to get to play in a major hall like this. The acoustics are so wonderful. You can hear all the little details that we work so hard on all the time," he said. "It's also a privilege for the different groups to be able to share the stage with each other, too. That's another positive thing that comes from this concert: these groups get to hear each other perform, which is something that doesn't always happen on campus."

The students arrived at the Strathmore around mid-day on Friday, and got busy rehearsing immediately for the concert that evening. For photos, visit and online.

  • Caleb Thomas takes a solo for Centre Dimensions Jazz Ensemble. For photos, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Annemarie Mountz
Last Updated May 20, 2011