Encore ensemble share stage with Rockford High School bands

By Alaina Rooker

Crow River News

Director of the Twin Cities-based Encore Wind Ensemble Jerry Luckhardt addresses the crowd before the Ensemble gave their first performance. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)
Director of the Twin Cities-based Encore Wind Ensemble Jerry Luckhardt addresses the crowd before the Ensemble gave their first performance. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)

To follow-up a fantastic performance with Copper Street Brass at their last winter concert, the Rockford Rockets welcomed the Encore Wind Ensemble to this year’s seasonal show.

The Encore Wind Ensemble, a top-notch gang of Twin Cities musicians kicked off the concert with a piece by Mozart. Completely unaided by artistic director Jerry Luckhardt, the band was led by featured oboe performer Kristen Cooper, who kept the piece moving at a satisfying clip with no difficulty. Such a spectacle was the mastery of her instrument, that the audience couldn’t help but break into applause after the moments she carried the piece by herself.

After the performance, Director Luckhardt mused that the last time he had seen applause in the middle of a piece was during a performance in Russia. Faux pas or not, Luckhardt invited the audience to continue their applause for the rest of the program (they did).

Kristen Cooper steals the spotlight as she led Oboe Concert K314, a piece originally by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, adapted for Cooper’s oboe performance by Director Jerry Luckhardt. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)
Kristen Cooper steals the spotlight as she led Oboe Concert K314, a piece originally by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, adapted for Cooper’s oboe performance by Director Jerry Luckhardt. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)

Luckhardt and his ensemble were invited by Rockford High School music instructor Jerald Ferdig to play at the concert. Believe it or not, the conversation to get the ensemble to Rockford High School had began nearly two years prior. “It just happened to work out this year with their schedule,” said Ferdig.

Typically, the ensemble does outreach to a few of high schools every a year. Luckhardt and Ferdig had been coordinating for awhile, with Luckhardt doing a handful of guest visits to the school, but both played with the idea of having a full band come out to play alongside the high schoolers. “He’s heard Rockford bands play a few times,” said Ferdig. “I think he liked what he heard, and thought we would be a good program to do a concert with.”

Luckhardt, a professor and conductor at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities had also visited the school the week before the concert to speak with the concert band and run a short rehearsal as a guest conductor. Luckhardt is Director of Graduate Studies, Associate

Director of Bands, and conductor of the Symphonic Band at the U of M, and also music director of both the Encore Wind Ensemble in Minneapolis and the Medalist Concert Band in Bloomington.

Freshman Varsity Band clarinetist Kylie Loraff is invited to stand after a solo. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)
Freshman Varsity Band clarinetist Kylie Loraff is invited to stand after a solo. (Sun staff photo by Alaina Rooker)

After the ensemble performance, the baton was then handed off to the Rockford Varsity and Concert Bands. Forty instruments filled the auditorium with sound in the Varsity Band, and later another 72 in the concert band.

The day after the concert, the bands took a trip to Watertown to compete in the Large Group Band contests.

The band and choir will leave for their tour in New Orleans at the end of March, but will be back and ready to put on a solid spring show for Rockford residents May 17 and 24. They will also be performing for the annual Memorial Day parade.

Rockford band teacher Jerald Ferdig, center, commands the Concert Band during their performance of Rippling Watercolors by Brian Balmages. (Sun staff by Alaina Rooker)
Rockford band teacher Jerald Ferdig, center, commands the Concert Band during their performance of Rippling Watercolors by Brian Balmages. (Sun staff by Alaina Rooker)