A prestigious performance

Students in the School of Music prepare for annual Da Capo concert

Staples Family Concert Hall is silent as members of the selection committee shuffle their papers and prepare for 26 musicians to audition for the annual Central Michigan University Da Capo concert.

Though the concert's purpose has changed throughout the years, the design has not. The collage format allows the School of Music to highlight the best of the best, from bassoon duos and reed quintets to opera soloists and the chamber singers. It is a prestigious showcase, one that students strive towards taking part of during their education.

Victoria Offut performs “Furious the Wind Blows” from Handel’s “Partenope” for the Da Capo selection committee.
CMU’s AACES quintet performs “Prelude 1” by George Gershwin during their audition for Da Capo. From left: Shannon West, Emmet Harris, Carlos Clark, Alexander Davies and Alexis Johnson.

Practice and rehearsals never stop for students in the School of Music, especially if they are selected to perform in Da Capo. Depending on what point of the semester it is, what upcoming competitions there may be and how many concerts are happening for her additional ensembles, Victoria Offut, a  music performance student from Chicago, can be working on two to 12 pieces at a time

The pieces she performs are rarely in English but instead in French, Italian, German, Latin and sometimes Russian.

"Something that singers have to do is learn all these foreign languages, so they can be more believable," Offut said.

Offut has become more proficient through language classes at CMU and through her monthlong study abroad trip in Italy in 2016, taking language classes for three hours a day.

Offut works with accompanist Mina Son on an aria in her Da Capo performance piece.
Offut practices a different piece from Handel as she prepares for an upcoming competition.

AACES is the first reed quintet in the history of the School of Music.

While woodwind quintets are a staple in chamber music, a reed quintet is a relatively new configuration of a five-piece group. Rather than the traditional woodwind quintet of a flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet and horn, the reed quintet features only reed instruments: oboe, bassoon, clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone.

"The CMU faculty have been wonderful in supporting us," said Alexander Davies, a music education student from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. "This is something we kind of came up with on our own, and there aren't really any materials ready for us. They have gotten us music. Kennen White, music faculty member, has been coming in and working with us."

AACES practices in a classroom in the School of Music building. From left: Shannon West, a music education major from St. Clair Shores, Michigan; Emmet Harris, a music major from Lansing, Michigan; Carlos Clark, music major from Belleville, Michigan; Alexander Davies, music education major from St. Clair Shores, Michigan; and Alexis Johnson, a psychology major from Lapeer, Michigan.
Music faculty member Kennen White gives the group feedback during their rehearsal about ways to improve for the upcoming concert.

After a month and a half of rigorous rehearsals, Staples was silent once again on Feb. 23 as the performers prepared for the show. Programs shuffled instead of audition papers, and the audience was now filled with members of the CMU and Mount Pleasant communities.

Also seated in the hall were prospective students who had spent the day auditioning to attend CMU the next year. For them, the performance was not just a showcase of the best, but an opportunity to see what they would be able achieve as CMU Chippewas.

Offut performs during the Da Capo concert Feb. 23 in Staples Family Music Hall.
The AACES Quintet performs in the Staples Family Music Hall during the Da Capo concert.
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