Central College music department hosts guest performers

Central College

PELLA — The Central College Symphonic Wind Ensemble and College Community Band, both under the direction of Mitchell Lutch, associate professor of music, will present a concert with several special guest soloists Sunday, Dec. 2 in Douwstra Auditorium at 4 p.m.

The ensembles will perform with Central alumnus and saxophonist James Skretta, who is completing his doctorate in saxophone performance at the University of Iowa. Guest performers from Merida, Yucatan, will be Maestro Luis Luna, conductor of the Yucatan Youth Symphonic Band, and three very talented student members: clarinetist Alejandro Chi González, percussionist Edoardo Ceballos and saxophonist, Maria José Chi González.

A native of Iowa, James Skretta received a bachelor’s in music education from Central, where he studied saxophone with Cynthia Doggett, associate professor of music. He then earned a master’s in music from the University of Iowa. As a soloist, he is a two-time winner of the Central College concerto competition and has performed in Dr. Eugene Rousseau’s prestigious International Saxophone Master Class. Skretta is also a passionate chamber musician, having performed recently at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic (Chicago) and International Saxophone Symposium (Washington D.C.), as well as several North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) conferences. Most recently, he performed with Trio UNIDO at the 16th World Saxophone Congress in St Andrew’s, Scotland.

Lutch highlights the special nature of inviting Skretta to solo with the wind ensemble. “James is teaching saxophone and clarinet lessons in our department this semester,” he says. “So this provides a special opportunity to have him return to the Douwstra stage with the wind ensemble as a featured soloist. While a student at Central, James played in the group for all four years. His dedication and talent set excellent musical examples for his peers and have remained an integral part of the ensemble’s foundation over the years.”

Lutch first met Luis Luna and his students during the Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s tour to Mexico in January 2010. Since then, he has returned several times to work with the Yucatan Youth Band and Orchestra, based in Merida.

Since this past January, under Lutch’s leadership, Central College has been sponsoring an instrument donation initiative to benefit the Yucatan Youth Music Program. This program supports a band, orchestra, and choir to provide music instruction and performance opportunities to underprivileged students from across the Yucatan. Founded in 2008 by master violinist Jose Luis Chan Sabido, more than 500 students are involved with the program, which is mostly supported by equipment donations and outside financial contributions. Central continues to accept donations of instruments in good working condition on the program’s behalf.

Luis and his students are spending the week at Central participating in rehearsals and performances, attending classes and giving presentations on Latin American music. The residency is being sponsored by the college’s music department, intercultural life office and campus life committee.

Lutch extended the invitation to Luna and his students in order to deepen the cultural and educational connection with the Yucatan program and make the interaction cyclical in nature. Prior to their arrival, the ensemble participated in a Skype conference and rehearsal with Luna. “Luis is a very talented and exuberant musician and conductor,” says Lutch. “Our students are very excited to share our music with him and his students and are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to learn more about Latin American music arranged for wind band.”

Some of the selections to be performed at Sunday’s concert include “Simple Gifts,” “Colombia Tierra Querida,” “Le Cid” (Ballet Music), “Concertante for Alto Saxophone and Band,” “Strange Humors,” “Conga del Fuego Nuevo,” “Music of the Beatles” and more.

The concert is free and open to the public, with a reception to follow. For more information, please contact Mitch Lutch at lutchm@central.edu or 641-628-5238.

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