The Catholic University of America

Jan. 13, 2015

National Symphony Orchestra Performs at Hartke


NSO Principal Flute Aaron Goldman performs as part of a concert in Hartke Theatre Jan. 12.

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Hundreds of students, faculty members, and members of the Brookland community were in attendance Jan. 12 as the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), led by Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, performed a free concert at The Catholic University of America’s Hartke Theatre.

The performance was the culmination of the 2015 NSO In Your Neighborhood series, a week of events in the Brookland and NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

In his opening remarks before the concert, Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, said the concert marked a “historic evening” for the University, as it was the first time the NSO has performed on campus.

The dean also noted that the concert marks the beginning of the music school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, a year-long series of special events that will include a full program by the CUA Symphony Orchestra and choruses at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall on Sunday, April 12.

Speaking at a reception following the concert, University President John Garvey noted that, “It was a real honor to host the National Symphony Orchestra at Catholic University. It’s such a great gift to this community. On April 12, we’ll return this favor by returning to the Kennedy Center.”


The concert featured NSO Principal Flute Aaron Goldman and included Mozart’s Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492; Concerto No. 2 in D major for Flute and Orchestra, K. 314; and Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, “Jupiter.”

In the hours leading up to the concert, a brass quartet from the NSO interacted with music students as part of Studio X, the music school’s weekly music colloquium in which undergraduates gather for presentations, performances, and master classes.

The quartet, which included NSO trombone players David Murray and Matthew Guilford, tuba player Stephen Dumaine, and visiting musician Peter Ellefson, performed numerous brass pieces, including works by Leonard Bernstein and Johannes Brahms. Afterward, they answered questions from students, discussing their own rehearsal schedules, the NSO audition process, and the importance of persistence when pursuing work as a musician.

Murray, who is 32, said this is his first year as a full-time musician with the NSO. Previously, he has supported himself through freelance performances and projects. He advised students to diversify their skills as much as possible.

“This is a great opportunity as undergraduates to go into your listening rooms and go online and become a well-balanced listener and a well-balanced musician,” he said. “Don’t pigeonhole yourself too much because you never know what you might end up doing in the future.”

  NSO trombone player David Murray talks with music students during a Studio X performance.

Ellefson spoke about the slim odds of winning a position in an orchestra.

“What I tell my students when I give master classes is if you can do anything else, you should do it,” he said. “But if you can’t not be a musician, then you have to be a musician, so buckle down and go for it.”

Seniors David Bond, a general music major, and Matthew Yost, a composition major, were among the many students in attendance at the Studio X performance in Caldwell Auditorium.

Yost believes what he learned will help him as he composes music.

“It is a really good opportunity to hear the unique characteristics of each instrument in such a personal, intimate setting,” he said. “Especially as a composer, that’s really important to understand how the instruments sound.”

Bond said he was excited by the opportunity to witness NSO musicians up close and personal.
“It’s a really unique thing to have people playing in a room like this,” Bond said. “Usually they are up on a stage with a spotlight on them, so this was really cool.”

For more information about the music school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, visit

Music study and performance at CUA began shortly after the creation of the University in 1887. In 1950, music moved onto the campus proper as a division, then a department within the School of Arts and Sciences in 1954, and was designated a school of music in 1965. In 1984, it was named in honor of Benjamin T. Rome, alumnus, trustee emeritus, and longtime friend and benefactor. The school is the preeminent center for music study, performance, and research in Catholic higher education in the United States and internationally recognized for its diverse curricula. The music school offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees — including in some disciplines Ph.D. and D.M.A. programs — in performance of instrumental music, piano, voice, and musical theatre, as well as choral conducting and sacred music, composition and theory, musicology, orchestral conducting, music education, and voice and piano pedagogy. Newer programs include the Institute of Sacred Music, which fosters performance, composition, and research in Catholic sacred music, and a highly innovative Bachelor of Arts program. The school has maintained a three-decade emphasis on Latin American music with a number of faculty experts in this field. The school designs programs and curricula that inspire young musicians to be imaginative in developing audiences, in providing musical service throughout communities, and in connecting with the evolution of American arts institutions and new ways that professional artists can and do serve humanity.




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