About 275 Kansas University School of Music students will play instruments and sing Tuesday in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo. The students are members of KU’s Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Choir, and will be performing for the third annual KU School of Music Scholarship Concert.
KU sophomore Katie McKeirnan, a clarinet player in the Symphony Orchestra, has previously performed at the Kauffman Center twice and is eager to return to the stage.
“The acoustics in the Kauffman Center are impeccable,” McKeirnan says. “Whenever we go in there, we can actually hear all across the orchestra, and sometimes you’re able to hear parts you’ve never heard before.”
The acoustics and clear sound aren’t the only benefits of playing at the center. The stage at the Kauffman Center is closer to the audience than it is at the Lied Center, which is something McKeirnan says makes the performance more enjoyable.
“You’re not miles and miles away from your audience,” she says.
The audience size at the Kauffman Center is also larger than at the Lied Center, with about 1,500 seats.
“It’s just so much work (preparing) and we believe in the music that we play, and the more people we can reach in the venue, that helps bring out the most from our hard work,” says David Neely, director of orchestral activities. “And that’s just a very special experience.”
Neely says it’s an honor for the students to be able to perform on the Kauffman Center’s stage.
“When we go up to the Kauffman Center, we feel it’s nice to have as many students involved as we can because it is such a neat experience for them,” Neely says. “It’s one of the greatest concert halls in the country, so we (the conductors) want a lot of our students to have that experience.”
Last spring, the orchestra and choirs performed the symphony opera gala, and following the event the directors began discussing how to bring the orchestra back to the center. The idea that was most popular was a concert featuring the works of Leonard Bernstein, which is what the musicians will perform Tuesday.
Bernstein was the first great American orchestra conductor who was recognized on an international level, Neely says, and many of his works are staples of the American repertoire.
He was also one of the last conductor-composers in history, because conducting became too complex to continue to do both.
The all-Bernstein program will include “Overture to Candide,” “Chichester Psalms,” “Three Meditations from Mass” and “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.”
“He was a genius and that’s what we’re celebrating,” Neely says.
The concert begins at 7 p.m. and is free, but a ticket is required. All seats for the concert have been reserved and tickets are no longer available, but Neely encourages Lawrence residents to attend KU Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Lied Center, which occur about once a month.
For a full list of KU School of Music recitals and performances, visit music.ku.edu/events.