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MC Wind Ensemble’s Spring Tour Connects High School Students to Melodies They Remember

Symphonic Winds will close its spring tour with a performance at Mississippi College scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.
Symphonic Winds will close its spring tour with a performance at Mississippi College scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.

Vibrant Mardi Gras parades. Stunning Garden District architecture. Exquisite Gulf cuisine. Stately streetcars.

New Orleans is universally famous for its culture. Most prominent on the Crescent City’s impressive list of world-renowned specialties is its music.

Whether Dixieland, Swing, Cajun-Zydeco, or Traditional Jazz, the Big Easy is home to an iconic musical culture unsurpassed anywhere on Earth. Musicians the world over trek to New Orleans to partake in the city’s legendary sounds.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Duval Salvant understands its musical culture well. The director of bands at Mississippi College is taking the University’s signature wind ensemble on a tour of high schools in the area – including his alma mater, Brother Martin High School – Feb. 28-29 to show that Symphonic Winds can play music, too.

“We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game to go play down there,” said Salvant, who will be leading the band’s spring tour for the first time. He succeeded Craig Young as MC’s band director last fall. “When I was a student in New Orleans, we had bands come from all around the country to play for us. They thought they couldn’t perform in New Orleans without trying to play some jazz.

“We knew what jazz is supposed to sound like. They would try their hardest, but they would always butcher it.”

That experience taught him a valuable lesson: when it comes to music, stay in your lane.

“We don’t want to play music that these students hear every day,” he said. “We’re going to play a lighthearted program of pieces that the students could play themselves, given the right direction.”

The selections will include “The Red Balloon” by Anne McGinty, a recent young band standard, and a common melody taught to middle school band musicians.

“We’re trying to connect to the students that we’re playing to,” Salvant said. “We’re saying, ‘You’ve heard this melody before, you’ve actually played it before – here’s the actual piece of music that it came from.”

Symphonic Winds’ spring tour will include performances at Brother Martin and Holy Cross High Schools in New Orleans, Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, and North Pike High School in Summit. The ensemble will return to MC for a finale performance of the tour program at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 2, in Swor Auditorium in Nelson Hall.

For the first time, the Symphonic Winds concert at MC is scheduled to coincide with the MC Office of Admissions’ Preview Day event. Hundreds of potential undergraduate students will be on the Clinton campus to learn first-hand what life at Mississippi College is all about. It could also turn out to be a profitable recruiting opportunity for MC’s band.

“Some of the Preview Day students who come to hear us may decide they want to perform in band during college,” he said. “Having a full auditorium will be a game-changer for our performance. There’s nothing worse than putting your heart and soul into a piece, nailing a solo, and have only a few people clap.

“You feel the audience’s energy up on stage. It’s great to have a good audience that shows a lot of support. Our band feeds off of that.”

Salvant recalls the excitement he felt performing on the Symphonic Winds spring tour as an undergraduate student at MC. He said the road trip remains a meaningful part of his students’ experience with the band.

“We always loved going out to different schools and playing,” he said. “We had to play our concert set a couple of times. We never had a bad welcome from any school. Everybody was always happy we were there to play music.

“The band directors at the high schools where I was a student are very excited Io hear the program that we have assembled, and I hope to do a little recruiting down there, too.”

Seasoned members of Symphonic Winds like Claire Copeland, a junior biology/physician assistant major from Birmingham, Alabama, understand how important the high school tour can be. One of the reasons Copeland decided to attend Mississippi College was to join the band.

“I loved band in high school and I wanted to continue playing, even if my major was not music,” said Copeland, who is principal flutist and piccolo in Symphonic Winds. “When I toured MC, I learned I could continue something that I loved while pursuing a career in something else.

“Even with the change of directors over my three years, I remained in the band due to the community and program I had grown to love.”

She said the spring tour is one of the things she enjoys most about performing in Symphonic Winds.

“Tour is always one of my favorite things to do in a band and always makes for some of the most memorable moments, I love performing for different schools, especially high schools. We have the opportunity to share our love of music with other students around the country while also demonstrating to them that you do not have to be a music major to still be involved in music.

Exposing others to our music while allowing the band to enjoy an experience outside of its normal element is important for everyone involved.”

Symphonic Winds’ spring tour will be a first for Jared Brownlee. The alto saxophone player transferred to MC from Itawamba Community College last fall, but the future music teacher is looking forward to the new experience.

“I always enjoy going to new places and playing music,” the junior music education major from Tupelo said. “New Orleans is a huge music city. I hope this experience will inspire me to perform in public more.”

Brownlee will be featured in a lively selection, “Mambo Perro Loco,” translated “Dance of the Crazy Dog,” by Julie Giroux of Madison, on a surprising instrument: the accordion.

“The most challenging part of symphonic band for me is playing the accordion,” he said. “It definitely isn’t a traditional band instrument, and it’s not my main instrument. But I enjoy playing with everyone because I get to make friends and create music with them.”

The accordion aside, Symphonic Winds shares many of the same instruments as a traditional marching band. What separates the two, and what makes a Symphonic Winds program more challenging, according to Salvant, is their purpose.

“If you go to a football game or a tailgate, you’ll see the marching band walk up and play a popular tune,” said Salvant, who also directs MC’s marching band. “During the field show, we’ll go on for five or six minutes, march around, and play music. If it goes well, that’s great – if it goes badly, we’ll recover. Then we walk away.

“Symphonic Winds has all the instrumentation of a marching band, plus a few extra pieces: oboes, bassoons, upright basses, and others. We’re in a more formal setting and we play a more difficult repertoire. We push the students to create a longer musical experience: we have to keep the audience captivated for 35 or 40 minutes.”

Symphonic Winds’ tour will consist of a high-energy, fun-filled repertoire designed to keep audiences entertained. The band will be fresh off an initial tour-set performance Feb. 22 for an audience of public school students attending the MC School of Education’s Educators Rising event on campus.

Those unable to attend a tour performance will have another chance to catch Symphonic Winds in concert this spring, On Sunday, April 21, the band will feature a completely new set of music for its end-of-year show, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Swor Auditorium.

All of the band’s performances at Mississippi College are free of charge and open to the public. For more information, email Salvant at