Music Students Shine at New England Intercollegiate Band Festival

Left to right: Adella Dzitko-Carlson, Emily Miclon, Michael Lauretti, Hannah Avena and Emily Kennedy pose for a photo in Eastern’s Concert Hall.

Five instrumentalists from Eastern Connecticut State University recently performed among the best undergraduate musicians in the Northeast. A clarinetist, a flautist, a percussionist and two trombonists represented Eastern’s Music Program in an “honors band” at the 2019 New England Intercollegiate Band Festival on March 29-30 at Gordon College in Massachusetts.

The honors band consisted of approximately 75 young musicians who auditioned from colleges and universities across the region. This year’s guest conductor was T. Andre Feagin of Colorado State University.

The five Eastern students included trombonists Michael Lauretti ’19 (Bristol) and Hannah Avena ’20 (West Hartford), flautist Emily Kennedy ’20 (Coventry), percussionist Emily Miclon ’19 (Enfield) and clarinetist Adella Dzitko-Carlson ’19 (Woodbury). Dzitko-Carlson was also selected as one of only three winners of the festival’s solo competition.

The students rehearsed for 12 hours over two days in preparation for the March 30 evening concert. “Throughout rehearsal, we never fully ran any of our pieces,” said Miclon, a percussionist of six years. “The first time we ran the pieces in entirety was during the concert, which really enhanced the authenticity of the experience.”

The 2019 New England Intercollegiate Band, directed by T. Andre Feagin, performed at Gordon College on March 30.

Conductor Feagin, assistant director of bands at Colorado State, emphasized the importance of conveying emotion during performance. “There was so much intention, focus and energy,” added Miclon.

The first half of the concert featured performances by the three winners of the soloist competition. “Being selected as one of the winners was an exciting performance opportunity,” said Dzitko-Carlson, a clarinetist of 12 years who was also the principal clarinet in the overall band. She performed the first movement of Carl Maria von Weber’s “Clarinet Concerto No. 2” for her solo.

“Adella’s playing has developed tremendously in every facet,” said her clarinet teacher Chris Howard, citing her musicianship, technical prowess and knowledge of the repertoire. “This was her third year performing in this ensemble — first playing in the section, then playing as the band’s principal clarinetist, and now as a featured soloist. What a testament to her progress!”

Jeff Calissi, music professor and percussion director at Eastern, commented on the dedication of the students. “Each of our five students who performed at the Intercollegiate Band Festival have spent numerous hours practicing their instruments and honing their craft as musicians.”

“Since becoming an Eastern student, my playing has greatly matured, both technically and expressively,” said Avena, who is mentored by trombonist Wes Mayhew. “Not only am I concerned with playing the correct notes, but I have gained an increasing amount of knowledge of the theory and history of music. I am now able to better understand the context of what I’m playing.”

Each of the students praised the one-on-one attention they receive from their music professors. “Without the faculty I really would not be the player I am today,” said Lauretti, a trombonist of seven years who’s also mentored by Professor Mayhew. “From technical exercises to working on tone and making the music we play sound musical, everything they teach has made a huge impact on my playing ability.”

Kennedy, a flute player since fifth grade, echoed: “All of our faculty are amazing in their different instruments. I’ve developed greatly in my musicality due to my teacher Amanda Baker.”

Eastern’s undergraduate instrumentalists pose for a photo with music faculty Kelly Watkins (white shirt) and Chris Howard (right) at the festival.

“I could not be happier that I chose to study music at Eastern,” added Avena. “The Music Program is rather small — all of the faculty members know who I am, which is a special feeling. This has led to greater opportunity, as I’ve had many chances to perform. At a larger university, these opportunities may have been reserved for upperclassmen,” she continued. “Instead of a competitive environment, Eastern is very supportive; everyone wants each other to succeed.”

“When I started at Eastern, I only had very basic skills,” said Miclon, who was recently accepted at the University of Missouri to pursue a master’s degree in percussion performance on a full tuition waiver and assistantship. “We have great percussion equipment at Eastern, and many diverse opportunities and ensembles.”

“Emily’s musical abilities have extended beyond campus and demonstrate the beginnings of what will be a fruitful career in percussion,” said Calissi of her graduate school acceptance. “We see the growth of our students’ musicianship as a reflection of the myriad opportunities we provide to those who wishes to participate.”

This was the third year Eastern students have participated in the New England Intercollegiate Band. Auditions were coordinated by Kelly Watkins, director of Eastern’s Concert Band.

“We are extremely proud of the work of these students,” concluded Emily Riggs, voice professor and chair of the Music Program. “We’re grateful to the many faculty members who have mentored their development and are thrilled that these students have earned the opportunity to represent Eastern at this regional festival.”

Written by Michael Rouleau