Summer Music at WPI
Much of the college community may be on break during the summer, but the band plays on. Again this year, administer of music Douglas Weeks will lead the WPI Summer Band and also co-lead the musical portion of the Frontiers summer high school program at the university.
The WPI Summer Band, a tradition that goes back some 20 years, consists of current students, alumni, faculty, and occasionally parents who enjoy playing instruments and have time to spare in the summer, says Weeks.
The band will perform a Pops-style concert July 25 at the Campus Center. Free ice cream will be served.
This year’s program will include a tribute to the late musician Prince, plus a variety of show tunes, pop music, and other lighter musical fare … “music we’d be less likely to play in an academic program,” Weeks says.
The band members change from year to year, says Weeks, depending on who’s available, so he can’t plan the program until he sees who shows up. Then he arranges the concert around the instruments and talent he has. Last year, for example, an accomplished violinist joined the group for the summer, so the band performed the theme from the movie “Sophie’s Choice,” which features a violin solo.
This year’s program will include a tribute to the late musician Prince, plus a variety of show tunes, pop music, and other lighter musical fare.
Improvising the program on the fly also happens, though to a lesser degree, when Weeks teaches at Frontiers, the WPI summer science, math, and engineering program for 11th- and 12th graders. He and assistant teaching professor Richard Falco lead the music aspects of the humanities portion of the program; they have to adjust the musical selections based on the experience of the students in each session.
“That is a challenge, because we don’t have any idea until everyone shows up what we have,” says Weeks, who teaches the band component, while Falco teaches jazz.
But the serendipity also has advantages. Because the Frontiers sessions are only two weeks, Falco and Weeks don’t have time to tailor the program to each individual student.
“So, people get to play things they may not play during the regular school year,” Weeks says. He adds that he and Falco try to incorporate engineering-friendly themes into the programs. For example, the programs over the last couple of summers have included video game music and multimedia presentations that include images projected on a screen.
Including the humanities in Frontiers is important because it mimics WPI’s college program, he says, adding, “The fact that you can study music here is different from other [engineering] schools like ours.”
Clearly, music is important to many in the WPI community, because they keep coming back to play in the Summer Band. Last summer, an alum from the 1980s joined the group and now her children, current students, have joined, Weeks says. Grad students, perhaps taking a lighter load in the summer, often participate, and one summer Ed Parrish, WPI’s 14th president, played the saxophone. Zach Chadwick ’03, a software engineer who has played tenor sax in the WPI Stage Band, frequently joins the band, says Weeks.
Though the Summer Band has already had two rehearsals, Weeks says there’s room for more talent. Anyone from the WPI community interested in joining should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.