The annual Collage Concert presented by the Kansas University School of Fine Arts always showcases student talent early in the academic year.
This year's concert, which is Friday, offers something more: the chance to see two high-profile music leaders take the podium for the first time in a concert setting.
Both David Neely, orchestra director, and Scott Weiss, band director, are new to KU this year and will make their Lawrence conducting debuts Friday.
"There's just a lot of positive interaction going on," says Larry Mallett, chairman of the department of music and dance. "It's very pleasant. You don't like to lose faculty members, but when you have new people come in, it's an opportunity to have new ideas and refreshing insight from the outside."
The Collage Concert, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center, features performances and presentations from all three departments in the School of Fine Arts - music and dance, art, and design.
Though this will be the first time Neely and Weiss share a concert, they've already been in close collaboration. They organized joint auditions for their programs - the Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra share some wind and percussion players - and worked together on scheduling for the fall.
"David and I really get along well," Weiss says. "We have similar goals and aspirations for the way programs are set up here. We both believe a strong wind ensemble without a strong orchestra is not a positive situation, and having a strong orchestra without a strong wind ensemble is not a positive situation."
With the band
Weiss (pronounced Wees) comes to KU from Indiana University, where he served as associate director of bands. He replaces John Lynch, who left to become director of bands at the University of Georgia.
Weiss says he's joining a strong band program that's recorded a CD and traveled to China in 2005.
In addition to continuing the strength of the Wind Ensemble, the band program's top group, he's hoping to raise the level and reputation of the lower bands, the Symphonic Band and Concert Band.
He also wants to increase numbers in the Marching Band. He notes that this year's Marching Jayhawks have 180 members, and 98 of those are freshmen. Also, 90 percent of last year's freshmen stayed for this season under second-year director David Clemmer.
Weiss says he's "not trying to re-invent the wheel" for this school year. He's planning to continue programs such as Band Day, which brings marching bands to campus for a football game, and the Prairie Wind Festival, which brings top band students from around the nation to campus.
Neely, meanwhile, comes to KU from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was music director for the school's opera program for six years. He also is a senior music staff member at the Des Moines Metro Opera, and he previously worked in German opera companies for 10 years.
Neely's goals include increasing the number of string players at KU. He'd also like to have a concerto competition among students and do more orchestral readings of student-written pieces.
The orchestra director agrees that it's exciting to join the program at the same time as Weiss.
"We're in constant contact," Neely says. "We both have ideas about where we want to take our programs, and they line up. So far it's been great."
And both say the Collage Concert is a great way to get a quick introduction to everything the School of Fine Arts does - whether you're a member of the community or a brand-new director.
"It'll be great to see what they do," Weiss says.