Music Groups Tune Up for New Season

Dr. Ball conducts orchestra rehearsal

Some people find their thrills in sports, speed or danger. Matt Kribs, Mason sophomore and violinist, gets his adrenaline highs by playing concerts in Albion’s College Symphony Orchestra.

“In the midst of the most powerful part of a piece, there’s electricity in the air – you feel connected to everyone else in the orchestra. It’s exhilarating!” Kribs said before the orchestra’s first rehearsal on Tuesday, August 25th  in Goodrich Chapel.

Albion’s music department contains multiple vocal, instrumental and chamber ensembles. The orchestra and the jazz ensemble are currently open for auditions. Both groups contain a wide range of students with diverse majors, from music performance to chemistry. Albion’s Orchestra welcomes not only students but community and staff members as well.

Those auditioning for either orchestra or jazz play in front of Dr. James Ball, the director of both groups. Ball said he wants people to play whatever they feel comfortable playing, so he can hear them at their best. For orchestra players, he typically asks for two short pieces: one fast and one slow, so he can gauge both technique and musicality.

Robert Squiers, a community member, teaches private music lessons in Battle Creek and plays viola with the Albion Orchestra. The Orchestra even premiered one of his original compositions “Andromeda” in 2014.

Even though Squiers has played with other orchestras, at Albion he became the principal player in his section. “I learned to lead a bit more,” he said. “It’s actually made me a better musician than I was.”

The orchestra is not without struggles. According to Ball, in recent years the orchestra has shrunk to half the size it once was. All the music ensembles have suffered from a lack of participants. Ball said he would rather have a mediocre player who works hard than an empty seat.

Still, Ball feels that the Orchestra has improved over the past decade. “We’re so much better today than we were 10 years ago, that’s fun to see,” he said. “Then you have all these students that you really enjoy and get to know, and they really become friends.”

The Orchestra’s first concert of the year is on Sunday, November 15. The Orchestra performs five concerts every year. Three concerts are traditional orchestra concerts featuring an overture, concerto and symphony. The Friday before the first concert, the orchestra puts on a children’s concert for area elementary school students. The group also performs at the Homecoming concert.

Ball has several pieces he wants the orchestra to play this year. He said he would like to play Alexander Borodin’s “Symphony No. 2,” “Scheherazade” by Nicolai Rimsky Korsakov and for the children’s concert Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose” suite.

Ball added that the orchestra plays difficult music. In his opinion, the orchestra’s greatest accomplishment during his time at Albion was a full performance of Carl Orff’s 25 movement work “Carmina Burana.” The piece involves the orchestra, choir and three or four soloists.

During the performance, the guest soloist came in two bars early. The mishap sent Ball into a scramble to save the performance, all from his conductor’s stool. Ball said students still joke about it today. “We didn’t fall apart, we kept it together. I’m not quite sure how,” he said.

One of Ball’s favorite moments with Albion’s music ensembles happened with the jazz ensemble. Several years ago, the group went on tour. Ball and the musicians packed into three vans and played concerts in Tennessee, Georgia and Northern Florida on their way to Cape Canaveral. There they took a boat to the Bahamas and played a concert onboard. Despite Ball’s fears that they would be at each other’s throats the whole trip, the group had a great time.

The jazz ensemble plays at least eight concerts every year. They play two concerts in Goodrich Chapel and six monthly concerts at Cascarelli’s restaurant in downtown Albion. The first Cascarelli’s concert this year is on Saturday, September 26. The next one is on Halloween night.

Often alumni return to Cascarelli’s – and not just for the legendary breadsticks. Ball welcomes jazz alumni to bring their instruments and play at Cascarelli’s with the jazz ensemble once again.

The jazz ensemble also plays concerts around the area. In the past they have played in Hastings, Ann Arbor and Mackinac Island.

The jazz ensemble rehearses on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday each week at 4:45 in Goodrich Chapel’s basement. The orchestra practices from 7-10:00 in the chapel on Tuesdays. These times do not include concerts and dress rehearsals.

Although students can earn .25 units of credit per semester for participating in a music ensemble, passion is what drives most to work hard for their groups.

Grace Talaski, Caro junior, plays alto sax in jazz ensemble and clarinet in orchestra. She dedicates a lot of her time to music, even as she’s double majoring in music performance and chemistry.

She said she does it because she loves it. Talaski especially enjoys playing concerts. “There’s a lot of energy and adrenaline when you’re performing onstage,” she said.

Andrew Vinopal, Arlington Heights sophomore, knew he wanted to play cello when he was only four years old after hearing instrument demonstrations at his school. “I turned to my mom and said, ‘that sounds like a lion! I wanna play it!’” Vinopal said.

Now, the music education major plays both cello and trombone in Albion’s Orchestra. He practices between three and four hours every day. Although he has played in other orchestras, he said Albion’s equal balance of string and wind instruments gives the group a unique sound.

In the meantime, Ball is looking forward to another year with the orchestra and jazz ensemble. “It’s kind of what I got into music for, to be performing with people I like and performing good music, and I get to do that with my two favorite kinds of music: jazz and orchestra,” he said. “So it’s as close to an ideal job as I can wish to have.”

Both the orchestra and the jazz ensemble are still open to new members. Those interested in auditioning should come to rehearsal or contact Dr. James Ball at (517) 629-0256 or by email at


About Nicole Kurlich 11 Articles
Nicole Kurlich is an English major at Albion College. In her spare time she writes poetry, rides horses and absently strums her ukulele while considering a career in travel writing. Tweet her @nkurlich.

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