A spotlight on the University’s musical ensembles

Bel Carden, Contributing Writer

Everyone listens and connects to music. Just as there are many different styles of music – pop, country, classical – there are also many different music ensembles on campus. Students are welcome to share their musical talents by participating in any of these unique groups. Just as everyone finds a music style that speaks to them, learning about the different music ensembles on campus may help you find which one speaks to you.


The University Choir & The Bucknell Camerata

The University Choir is a women’s singing group comprised of sopranos and altos. The Choir’s music choices range from classical to pop. Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music Beth Willer is the choral conductor. Willer also teaches courses on conducting, choral methods, vocal chamber music, and arts entrepreneurship. Some of the choir’s performances include the Rooke Chapel Candlelight Carols Services, collaborations with guest artists and orchestras, domestic and international touring, and much more throughout the year. Miller also directs the Bucknell Camerata, another choir group on campus which is usually composed of 16-24 members. The Camerata was started in 2015 with a focus on early and contemporary music choices. One of the Camerata’s favorite performances is the annual Bach@Bucknell festival. For more information about joining either of these ensembles, the Bucknell Choir or the Bucknell Camerata, please email Willer at [email protected].


Opera Theatre Program

One of the University’s particularly unique music organizations offered is the University Opera Theatre program. The Bucknell Opera Theatre group is directed by Emily Martin and presents one musical each year. However, the group also has many other performance opportunities ranging from student-directed opera scenes and opera education to jazz cabarets and community performances. Martin stressed how special the versatility of the program is, “Often students see the word ‘opera’ in the title and think that they either don’t have the experience or they will be singing music they are not interested in performing. Besides opera, we do musical theatre, jazz, and next weekend we are having a showcase concert with music from Mozart to Sara Bareilles to Ariana Grande,” Martin said. Although it is called the Opera Theatre group, they perform much more than just opera. Every song and performance challenges the group with a new controversial topic being focused on or music style being used. The group welcomes anyone who would be interested in joining; however, being able to read music is always helpful for participation. When asked how she would choose to describe the group Martin picked the words, “Risk-taking, musical, and fun.” For more information about joining the Bucknell Opera Theatre program, please contact Martin at [email protected].


Rooke Chapel Ringers

Another music group on campus is the Rooke Chapel Ringers. This ensemble was founded in 1983 and is still very active on campus today. The 14 members play regularly for Protestant services on campus as well as the ringing-in-of-Christmas at Candlelight services in Rooke Chapel during the Christmas season. The group has also participated in music festivals and a European concert tour of Switzerland and Austria. The Rooke Chapel Ringers are directed by Robert Riker, who can be contacted via email at [email protected].


Gamelan Ensemble

The University Gamelan ensemble is a group that learns and performs both traditional and modern music of Indonesia. Members of the Gamelan ensemble have the opportunity to explore a variety of Indonesian instruments and styles. As the ensemble has no requirement of previous experience with the musical style, the Gamelan ensemble offers a unique opportunity for members to explore a novel musical method and gain an appreciation for the music of another culture. The ensemble explores styles such as pieces for Balinese angklung, Balinese gender wayang, Javanese soran-style pieces, adapted works, and new pieces for gamelan.

The Gamelan ensemble is directed by Bethany Collier who specializes in Indonesian culture and ethnomusicology, the study of music around the globe. This group is open to all members of the University community, including students, staff, and faculty.


Jazz Band

The University Jazz Band group is another fantastic ensemble on campus comprised of students from all corners of campus, with a variety of different majors and academic interests. This group explores jazz music in a big group setting and gives students the opportunity to perform both on and off campus, showcasing pieces they have mastered from both historical and modern composers.


The jazz band is under the direction of Barry Long, who has been in the position for 11 years and programs the music for concerts. This process is collaborative among the group, and Long takes input from the students regarding music selection. Additionally, Long works to bring guest performers to campus to play along with the group.


“This current semester has definitely been a highlight. The students have worked hard and are sounding fantastic, plus we had the opportunity to perform with a wonderful bass trombonist from New York, Jennifer Wharton. She was an absolutely fabulous guest,” Long said.


The University also offers courses in jazz history, theory, and more, as students are encouraged to explore music academically as well.


“Our ensembles really reflect the best of Bucknell: music majors, minors, and students from other disciplines on campus collaborating to perform at a very high level for our campus and community,” Long said.




The University orchestra is recognized throughout the University community for its rich repertoire and quality performances. Christopher Para, who has directed and conducted the orchestra since 1988, is responsible for the musical selection, organizing rehearsals, and conducting performances.


Para mentioned two recent performances, in particular, that stand out. In the fall of 2018, the orchestra collaborated with two faculty members: Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Katelyn Allers and Professor of Psychology Andrea Halpern. Together, they created and presented “Science and the Symphony,” which was a concert comprised of symphonic music by well-known composer-scientists, and music inspired by science. The group performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Elgar’s “Nimrod” from the “Enigma Variations,” and Borodin’s “Overture to Prince Igor.” The concert also featured the world premiere of Paul J. Botelho’s “a dragon rises up from a small stream” along with a screening of the 1902 short science-fantasy silent film, “A Trip to the Moon.” The orchestra played alongside the film, while Allers narrated.


“The Audience and orchestra ‘made science’ by taking part in a scientific study under the direction of Halpern.  It was an unusual, enlightening program that was fun to present and well-received by our audience,” Para said.


Symphonic Band


The University’s symphonic band group is conducted by William Kenny. Like most ensemble groups on campus, the symphonic band allows members from all majors and interests. The group performs twice a semester, and have performed pieces by composers such as Frank Ticheli, Sam Hazo, and Ivan Rutherford. Beyond campus, the group has had the opportunity of performing at events and conferences such as the regional College Band Directors National Association conference. Additionally, the group has performed for formal events on campus such as inaugural ceremonies for University presidents.

(Visited 212 times, 1 visits today)