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Dickinson State University features student musical talent

Students from around the region played it big and played it loud at a small concert held at Dickinson State University on Wednesday. (Iain Woessner/The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Students of the woodwinds and brass instruments got a chance to show off what they've learned, performing live at Dickinson State University on Wednesday. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

The halls were alive with the sound of music at Dickinson State University's student center, as over 100 students from regional high schools showcased their musical talents in a rare opportunity to learn and play in public.

"This is the fourth annual Woodwind Day. So what I do is give an opportunity for students ... to perform their piece for upcoming solo and small ensemble," Jeremy Wohletz, one of DSU's music professors and the leader behind the annual Woodwind Day, said following the student's concert, which was broken into brass and woodwind portions. "They can perform it and get some critiques on it."

The musical showcase began modestly, with around 11 students and only featuring single-reed instruments, like clarinets. Wednesday's showcase demonstrated how much the program has grown, with dozens of students playing brass and woodwinds, including tubas, trombones, flutes and clarinets. Brass Day was being held alongside Woodwind Day, with the different groups rehearsing separately and playing in the same room.

"This gives them an opportunity to play as a large woodwind choir that they wouldn't normally have in their schools," Wohletz said. "It's a really great (show of) support for the community, and my ultimate goal of this is to increase the music that's in this community, increase the performances that are going on and just really helping grow southwest North Dakota as a big music area."

Among the students provided an opportunity to perfect their craft was Emily Schmidt, an eighth-grader from Richardton-Taylor who has been playing music since she could walk.

"My dad's in music, so I started out with piano in kindergarten and I just started band in fifth grade and I switched to bass clarinet in eighth," Schmidt said. She said that while she isn't sure if she wants to pursue music as a full-time career, she enjoys the work of it, reading notes from sight, experiencing different music and the like.

Schmidt got to be the subject of a "master class" during the day's events, where she was instructed in music by a teacher in front of the whole group. Schmidt said that it was a pretty frightening experience, but overall she enjoyed the experience of playing in a concert.

"I would probably do it again; it was really fun," She said.

Wohletz said he's been happy with the surge in interest the event has drawn.

"So each year it's progressively grown and the fourth year we've had lots of new schools coming, who hadn't been here before but heard about it from word of mouth," He said. "I've been really happy with the growth it's had in the past four years."

That growth brings its own share of challenges, and the sheer size of the event now is causing Wohletz to try to think of ways of breaking it up into more manageable pieces.

"I think what will have to happen is that we will have to break it up a little bit. I may have to go to a single-reed day to a flute day or something like that, so it's not so many people," He said.

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