UTEP Virtuosi Take Classical Music to a New Level

Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

UTEP’s newest ensemble features a group of players you may have seen and heard, but never before like this. Members of the UTEP orchestra string section are coming together as the UTEP Virtuosi to bring a new dimension to live music at the university. The Virtuosi perform for the first time at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 in the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall.

“The UTEP Virtuosi is our newest ensemble, consisting of the finest string musicians from the Department of Music,” said Lowell E. Graham, D.M.A., chair of the Music Department and director of orchestra activities. “The ensemble gives our students the opportunity to play great music by masters who wrote string-oriented music.”Mark Schuppener, D.M.A., assistant professor of violin and viola, will conduct three concerto grossi for the UTEP Virtuosi’s debut performance on Feb. 7. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News ServiceMark Schuppener, D.M.A., assistant professor of violin and viola, will conduct three concerto grossi for the UTEP Virtuosi’s debut performance on Feb. 7. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

While the Virtuosi will focus primarily on the Baroque and Classical periods (the years 1600 to 1750), music that falls in the category of chamber music with selected added winds also will be added to their repertoire. For their kick-off concert, the Virtuosi have selected music by noted composers including Boyce, Vivaldi, Handel, Corelli, Telemann and Pachelbel.

“Dr. Graham created this ensemble to expose the students and the general public to the beauty and refinement of music written for strings,” said Mark Schuppener, D.M.A., assistant professor of violin and viola. “Much of the music written in the Baroque and Classical Eras highlight the string instruments, and the UTEP Virtuosi are thrilled to learn and present music from these time periods at public concerts.”

This first Virtuosi performance will highlight a genre of Baroque music known as the concerto grosso (“big concert” in Italian). Schuppener is directing three different concerto grossi during the debut concert, one each by Handel, Vivaldi and Corelli, who was one of the first influential artists composing within this genre.

A concerto grosso consists of music written for a larger string ensemble with featured soloists within each movement.

“The keyboard instrument known as the harpsichord will also be featured to present an authentic Baroque sound,” Schuppener added. Those who are not familiar with classical music may recognize at least one concerto grosso by another name: the “Brandenburg Concertos,” six pieces composed by Bach and used heavily in movies and television.

Graham will open Thursday’s program with a lively overture by William Boyce and will conclude the concert with the famous “Canon” by Johann Pachelbel. No performances are yet planned for the rest of the semester, although Schuppener states that the ensemble will definitely perform later in the calendar year.

The UTEP Virtuosi includes students Christina Hernandez, Sergio Ramos, Armando Garcia, Johnny Barragan, Jessica Gutierrez, Natalee Carrasco, Armando Sandoval, Cesar Perezbanuet, Rhiannon Morillo, Elijah Evans, Rubi Castillo, Sarah Flores, Ricardo Myers, Laura Sifuentes, Cynthia Rios, Jose Tarango, Thomas DeSantos, Carmen Ordaz, and Reymundo Luna on violin; Aaron Piedra, Felicia Henderson, Adren Warling, Octavio Macias, and Sandra Herrera on viola; Nathan Black, Josh Goldstein, Jewell Crye, Jedadiah Leachman, Alberto Macias, Jesus Reyes, Paloma Romero, and Jamie Carney on cello; and Erick Rios, Jacob Diaz, Christian Chesanek, Francisco Mercado, Eric Howell, and Luis Antonio Lopez on string bass.

General admission tickets are $5 and $3 for seniors, military, non-UTEP students and children 6 and younger. The performance is free for UTEP students, faculty and staff. Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster or by calling the University Ticket Center at 915-747-5234.