The Liberal Arts Musical Edge

JJ Kuchan is a Masters of Music Education graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He played trumpet with the Wind Ensemble all four years of his time at William & Mary and served as Publicity Officer, Vice President, and President. JJ graduated from William & Mary in 2013 with History and Music degrees.

​When I first arrived at the University of Colorado I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d fit in with the other graduate students. I arrived in Boulder with the assumption that there would be an unequal level of knowledge, skill, and experience between myself and others who took typical paths towards their graduate music degrees. I was wrong. Now after a full year of classes, lessons, and ensembles, I can confidently say that I felt competitive and well-adjusted to a school of music environment thanks to the William & Mary Wind Ensemble. Looking back, it’s easy for me to remember how I grew as a musician, leader, and educator through the Wind Ensemble’s unique balance of high performance standards and liberal arts creativity.

​The curricular backbone of the WMWE closely parallels what I’ve experienced in my large university school of music ensembles: exposure to high quality repertoire, unique performances, and collaborative opportunities with world class soloists. W&M’s liberal arts background gives the Wind Ensemble the flexibility to program numerous works of artistic and historic merit that I cherished studying and performing.

I also gained valuable performance experiences at W&M from the Wind Ensemble’s numerous venues, themes, and sheer quantity of its concerts. While at Colorado I’ve had the pleasure of performing two full ensemble concerts per semester, but at William & Mary we performed four concerts a semester in numerous auditoriums, theatres, amphitheatres, and the Wren Great Hall. These concerts featured both full wind ensemble and select chamber ensembles. In terms of performing a variety of music in unique spaces, W&M provided a more extensive list. Finally, I loved the exciting collaborative performance opportunities between the ensemble, W&M faculty, and Washington DC professional musicians. One such performance was a Global Film Festival concert which featured Aaron Copland’s Quiet City with Professors David Vonderheide and Sherri Aguirre, both adjunct faculty and principals in the Virginia Symphony. I am still jealous that I missed last year’s opportunity to perform a side by side concert with the Langley Air Force Band and I look forward to hearing the ensemble’s progress as they prepare for their 2015 China Tour.

​There are also a few traits of the WMWE that make it entirely unique and, I believe, more rewarding than performing in a large university ensemble. A few of these include opportunities for leadership, national and international tours, and a cultural atmosphere that takes music and friendships seriously. From managing social media, designing concert programs, and organizing community performances to leading intramural sports teams, I was very fortunate for the numerous opportunities to lead my peers and foster traditions. Not only did the Wind Ensemble helped me become a confident, skilled, and articulate musician and leader, but it also gave me a family and home away from home that defined my William & Mary experience.

WMWE: A Transition



Hello there! My name is Kevin Kay, and I’d like to introduce myself on this fabulous W&M Wind Ensemble blog. I suppose, first and foremost, I should say a little about myself. I am a freshman here at the college, hoping to major in physics with a minor in music. I was born and raised in Richmond, VA, and I went to Godwin High School in District 1 (for those of you familiar with VBODA!). With regards to musical background, it all started long ago, in December of what I remember as my 4th grade year. It was then that I received my first (and only) electric keyboard, which I fell in love with instantly and practiced diligently. From there I began to explore the wonderful world of music. Starting in 6th grade, I joined band and played the alto saxophone, which I still continue to play. It wasn’t until 8th grade when I discovered the amazing-ness that is the clarinet. The clarinet fascinated me, and I was eager to learn how to play it.  Now it has become my favorite instrument, and the one that I play mostoften. I also got to explore miscellaneous instruments through other ensembles, like indoor drumline, where I learned pitched percussion (like Marimba), and just for fun, I marched tuba a couple years and euphonium one year in my high school marching band.

After reading that paragraph, one would assume that when I came to college, music would be one of the main focuses of my extracurricular life. And, well, that person would be correct. I was extremely excited to audition for the Wind Ensemble, and fortunately enough, I got in! The atmosphere here is so different than that of high school band. High school band, although I took it seriously, wasn’t always the most serious thing. We had tons of people who were just in it for friends, or who weren’t very serious about producing good music. However, I have not yet met a single person in WMWE that isn’t passionate and committed to the music and the ensemble. Everyone wants to be challenged and be great. The music we are receiving is very difficult, everyone is challenged, and everyone rises up to the expectations that are placed before us. This, to me, is the biggest difference between high school and WMWE (not to mention the fact that everyone is incredibly superb at their respective instrument). WMWE feels like how district and state band were, except that it doesn’t just meet for a weekend. We get to rehearse with each other multiple days a week, all year long, and I cannot wait to see where we are by the end of the year.

You all are the bomb diggity and I love playing with you guys!



Alma Mater Hail

Hayley SooHoo
Hayley SooHoo, ’12

Halfway through my first semester of Wind Symphony (now the Wind Ensemble), I almost dropped out. I remember calling home and explaining to my mom that I just wasn’t sure it was worth the time and extra bit of pressure it put on me. I wasn’t in band in high school, so the atmosphere was new to me. I was at college for academics, wasn’t I? And I wasn’t really making friends (plus I had my freshman hall for that). But, wisely, my parents convinced me to stick with it and give it a little more before giving up.

I finally attended a “band dinner” after rehearsal one night, and my attitude turned around completely. I started talking to members more outside of rehearsal, played in a couple of casual Ultimate Frisbee games with members and their roommates/friends, and even started playing around with the idea of running for a leadership position – Publicity Director would be a great way for me to get experience in my intended Marketing major while contributing to the group.

As I delved further into the group outside of rehearsals, I started to get more out of our time spent playing music. Each instrument or section was comprised of people I knew, personalities I understood, and sharp musical minds. I was more at ease, had more fun, and started caring more about our collective success.

Intramural Soccer Champs

It’s crazy for me now to think that I almost let what became my closest group of friends and one of the most rewarding aspects of college life slip by. Over my four full years in the Wind Symphony, I served in three leadership positions and as incoming President, helped navigate the group and elected student officers through a change in directors. I watched previous officers pave the way in the local and regional communities for the Wind Symphony’s growing presence, and took my own steps toward making that happen. I grew and challenged myself as a leader, group member, and friend. I learned how to better listen to music and became a stronger flutist. I played on an intramural championship team and traveled to four different cities on tour. Most importantly, I immersed myself in my love for music and community, and emerged with the group of people whose weddings I’ll witness, whose senior recitals I visited campus to attend, and whose faces I’ll look forward to seeing most at Homecoming for years to come.

Hayley and Erin -- flutes
Hayley SooHoo (’12) and Erin Wagner (’13)

It has been over a year now since I graduated, and all of these experiences have shaped that time invaluably. I pulled stories from Wind Symphony for support in job interviews, used connections from Wind Symphony to make new friends in a new city, and have kept music as an important part of my life. It is without a doubt one of the things I’m most proud of about my time at William & Mary, and though I don’t get to play with those awesome people every week anymore, I still feel connected and valued as a member of the 84 year-old community.