Wright State flute players record new composition for major woodwind publisher

A major woodwind music publisher will sell a new composition premiered by students in Wright State University’s Flute Studio.

Alry Publications will publish “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir” later this summer. And when patrons visit Alry’s website, they will be able to hear a recording and watch a video of the Wright State flute players performing the piece in the university’s Schuster Hall.

The publisher asked the students to record “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir” after watching them perform last August at the largest annual flute event in the world.

“Everyone who hears the piece loves it,” said Christopher Chaffee, professor of flute at Wright State. “It’s a significant accomplishment for the students to get a piece like that, that’s brand new, play it, get the attention.”

The students recorded “Ocean” during finals week in April, already a stressful time because they had to perform for juries, which are like final exams for music students. Chaffee challenged the students to be prepared for the recording session, emphasizing that being featured on Alry’s website would provide great exposure for the flute program and the School of Music.

Chaffee invited Sarah Britton Robertson, who graduated with a master’s degree in music education in 2012 from Wright State, to conduct the performance. The first time the students and Robertson worked together was the day of the recording.

“She was super prepared. She could not have been better for the students,” Chaffee said of Robertson.

Wright State University’s Flute Studio recorded “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir” for Alry Publications, a major woodwind music publisher, in Schuster Hall in the Creative Arts Center.

Sydney Scherer, a senior majoring in flute performance, said she loves how “Ocean” incorporates different layers, cool texture and imagery in the music.

“You really do feel like you’re by the ocean or in the middle of a hurricane,” she said.

Megan McFaddin, a junior music education major who plays in the Flute Studio, said she likes how unique “Ocean” is. “It’s such a different piece, and it really takes you into the different places,” she said.

The students also enjoyed playing as an ensemble during the recording session and at the convention.

“I just love how supportive everyone is,” Scherer said. “We lift each other up, and we know how to help each other and keep each other in a positive light.”

McFaddin said she looks up to her classmates a lot.

“They are so talented, and every single member brings something different and good to the group,” she said. “I really loved playing ‘Ocean’ with them. They also help me grow as a player and a person.”

Wright State flute players debuted “Ocean,” along with two other pieces, during a performance at the National Flute Association Convention in Minneapolis last August. Chaffee asked another School of Music graduate, Stacey Russell, to conduct the convention performance.

Chaffee invited Alry Publications to attend the concert. The publisher was so taken with “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir” he offered to publish it — and asked the Wright State musicians to record it to help promote sales.

The National Flute Association is the largest flute organization in the world, and Chaffee compared performing at the convention to playing in the NCAA basketball tournament.

“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “It’s really an international convention with players from all over the world. A lot of collegiate flute players apply and not many get in.”

The convention is a three-day event packed with performances, classes, clinics and vendors.

“The convention and recording will be something I will remember for the rest of my life,” McFaddin said. “Those aren’t things everyone gets to do, and I’m honored that I got to be apart of something that wonderful.”

To earn an invitation to the convention, the flute students had to submit a proposal. Chaffee challenged them to do something that would stand out. So they proposed a concert featuring pieces by living female composers, including a new work by Madeline Merwin, a teenager who was a student of Chaffee’s at Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan, where he teaches in the summer.

Wright State flute players warming up before performing at the National Flute Association Convention, the largest annual flute event in the world.

A few years ago, Chaffee’s flute students at Interlochen said they were not satisfied with the variety of flute ensemble music available in the library. So Chaffee made an off-handed comment that they should ask their composer friends to write a piece they could play. A few days later, Merwin told Chaffee she followed his advice and wrote the first movement of “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir.”

Chaffee and his students at the summer camp loved it. “It’s a well-written, well-conceived piece of music, especially for someone who was then 16,” he said.

Throughout the journey of publishing and recording “Ocean Suite for Flute Choir” Chaffee challenged his students to take advantage of opportunities presented to them. Opportunities are available for musicians, he said, “but the vast majority of the time you have to make things for yourself.”

“They set a goal for themselves and went after it,” he said. “I’m really darn proud of them too, for all the work they put into this thing.”

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