Amid unpacking boxes at home and hundreds of meetings at work, Robert Walzel has been keeping his clarinet chops up the last few weeks.
He wants to make a good first impression for his Lawrence debut, which comes Friday at the 11th annual Collage Concert presented by the Kansas University School of Music.
“I was a little bit reluctant to play at first,” admits Walzel, who started as the school’s dean in mid-June. “I kind of go in and out of being a musician.”
That’s because these days, Walzel’s time is spent familiarizing himself with his new university, and more specifically, the student musicians and faculty members in his own school.
One of the things he’s learned in the past few months is that the Collage Concert is designed exactly the way he would have wanted it. The event highlights all of the divisions within the School of Music, is a “potpourri” program intended draw in community members and also raises funds for the school through a reception following the concert.
“It’s exactly the vision of what our Gala Concert was” at the University of Utah, where Walzel served as director of the School of Music for nine years before coming to KU. “I really do see this as a celebration of all things good music at KU.”
Clint Ashlock is among the students who hope to add to that good music.
Ashlock, a doctoral student and trumpet player, will be the soloist as the KU Trumpet Ensemble performs “Tico Tico” by Zequinha de Abreu.
“It’s just a really fun piece,” Ashlock says. “For me it’s a chance to, not to show off, but a showy piece. It has some high notes in it, some fast things.”
Other selections from the program include:
- “Danny Boy,” performed by the Chamber Singers, conducted by Paul Tucker.
- Excerpt from “Scheherazade” by Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Lukasz Lagun on violin and the KU Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of David Neely.
- “Radiant Joy,” by Steven Bryant, performed by the KU Wind Ensemble with Paul Popiel conducting.
- “America the Beautiful,” performed by the KU Choirs and Wind Ensemble, with Tucker conducting.
- Selections by the Marching Jayhawks.
And, of course, Walzel’s selection: “Concerto for Clarinet,” by Artie Shaw, which the dean will perform with KU Jazz Ensemble I.
Despite having his dean as a fellow performer, Ashlock says he doesn’t think there will be any friendly musical competition.
“I’m definitely looking forward to hearing him perform,” Ashlock says. “Hopefully nobody’s keeping score.”
Though Walzel says he’s poked his head into many rehearsals to hear groups this fall, Friday will be the first time he’ll hear the students in a performance setting. And since he’ll be preparing for his own gig, he won’t be sitting in primo seating at the Lied Center.
“I’ll be hanging out at the edge of the stage,” he says, “just listening.”