UT’s Symphony Orchestra Begins New Era

By Kiley Petracek

This Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m., a new era for The University of Tampa’s orchestra program kicks off with their first concert of the season, “Dances Around The World,” at Falk Theatre. The admission-free program is run by UT’s first full-time director of orchestra and string studies since 2016, Dr. Megan Maddaleno. 

Dances Around The World” is unlike any other production Falk Theatre has seen recently. The repertoire chosen for this concert includes a variation of different cultures, representing dances from around the world. These range from historic to modern dances from Latin America, Mexico, France, Romania and Hungary according to Nicholas Canny, a UT student and violinist. 

“Being able to see a new variety of art being spread out, it’s like a spark. Watching people learn about it only makes them want to learn more,” said Canny. 

The program combines ideas from other cultures together for a high-paced dance, resulting in a fresh energy for the orchestra program. 

“We’re having fun, we’re learning, we’re smiling through the pieces, we’re energetic,” said Canny. “That’s what drives the spark.”

Watching his first collegiate orchestra program come together over the past few months, “it felt, I don’t know how to put it into words,” said Canny. “There isn’t a word, besides amazing. Watching the growth from August to now, and having our concert next week… it’s going to be one to remember.”

Expect to see pieces that incorporate intriguing elements, including Aaron Copland’s iconic “Hoe Down” from Rodeo and an “ethereal” nearly 11-minute concerto, Claude Debussy’s Danses sacrée et profane, featuring UT’s professor of harp, John McColley.

“It’s amazing to listen to, it’s a great time to play, and it’s even fun to watch because my feet are moving constantly changing the pedals,” said McColley. 

The passion fueling the orchestra projects behind the scenes stems from the diverse blend of enthusiastic musicians from the Tampa area. 

“The UT orchestra stands out from a collegiate and community level in not only is it these dedicated college students, but other members from the community,” said McColley. 

UT’s orchestra includes members outside of undergraduate students. There are community members, alumni, professors/faculty and high school students participating from Blake High School. 

“It’s not only a great opportunity for UT students, but it really ingratiates itself into the community,” McColley said. “We’re a stronger program due to that fact, and the community knows what we’re doing.”

Dances Around The World” is just the beginning of what Dr. Megan Maddaleno, the newly appointed full-time orchestral director, has in store for the rest of the academic year. Annually, the orchestra program hosts four productions, two each semester. Anticipatedly, the rest of the year will include a Holiday Gala in December, which features a collaboration with guest artist, contemporary Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha and a world premiere of electronics and multimedia work through orchestra by Dr. Bradford Blackburn. 

Maddaleno says some of the most exciting performances she has been a part of have included collaborations between different types of art; particularly staged performances such as ballet, musical theater, and opera. 

“I love collaborating with all different types of people. I’m passionate about telling all stories. We’re always telling not only the stories of ourselves but the stories of those that came before us. By programming pieces of all people, we are able to tell all stories,” said Maddaleno. 

The intention for the addition of a full-time faculty member that focuses on orchestra,“is to grow the program while engaging with the rich and vibrant Tampa community,” said Maddaleno. 

The program has already seen evidence of this, with new members joining nearly every rehearsal. 

“We keep growing, and I know with the right mindset, leadership, and vision we can establish ourselves really well in Tampa’s rich artistic community,” said Maddaleno.

UT’s symphony orchestra is rooted in a place of passion and hard work, and anticipates dramatic growth in light of updates to the department. They are in a period of growth, not only in sheer size but also musically. 

“This is a defining moment for a new era,” said McColley. “It’s going to help elevate and evolve it into something that is a very integral part of the community not only in UT but on this side of Tampa.”

Photo Credit: UT’s new symphony orchestra director, Megan Maddaleno, conducts at The University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Photo by Easton Green.

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