During the past fifty years, the music world has witnessed the development of a new approach to the wind band, an approach that has drawn attention to an emerging original repertoire and to new performance possibilities for concerted wind music. Many conductors, composers and performers have moved from the popular-culture aspects of the traditional band toward a classical performance-based medium.
Using an instrumentation similar to that of a “double orchestral wind section”, the wind ensemble performs music composed during the past five centuries for winds, brass, percussion and keyboards. A majority of the repertoire composed specifically for various combinations of these instruments has been created during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With the rich history of the past, the contemporary wind ensemble provides a wide variety of music ranging from the classical octet to contemporary chamber repertoire and the sonorous full ensemble.
A number of distinguished composers have chosen the University of Connecticut Wind Ensemble to premiere and perform their works. The list includes Michael Torke, Michael Daugherty, Eric Ewazen, Karel Husa, Stephen Grye, Anthony Iannaccone, Warren Benson, Jared Spears, William Penn, Daniel Kellogg, Morton Gould, Joseph Schwantner, and John Harbison.
The ensemble has performed at Carnegie Hall on two occasions. First, in 1996, at the request of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in “A Tribute to Morton Gould”. In 2012, video of this performance was featured on the Morton Gould website sponsored by the Carnegie Hall Foundation. Again in 2004 with “Musical Offerings: Recent Music Commissioned by Raymond and Berverly Sackler.”
Three compact discs have been released since the year 2000. A fourth disc of historical versions of The Star-Spangled Banner that document the history and evolution of our national anthem is in production. “The Star-Spangled Banner; A History in Sound” will also include editions for vocal soloists, organ and jazz ensemble.
Performances by the Wind Ensemble have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” and WGBH Boston’s “Art of the States”.
The Frederick Fennell Repertoire Archives is ongoing project that brings the internationally renowned conductor and founder of the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Frederick Fennell, to campus annually to study in depth the wind band classics of Holst, Vaughan Williams, Grainger, Persichetti, and others. Interviews, performance analyses, facsimiles of Dr. Fennell’s scores and parts, and video documentary of rehearsals and performances are archived and are available for study by conductors from all over the world.
After hearing the wind ensembles second CD Frederick Fennell had these remarks. “ I listen to several wind band recordings every week. Your CD for Ludwig music is the best recording of its kind I have heard in ten years. Musicianship, intonation, articulation, phrasing, sound – it’s all there. It does not sound like a university group – it is professional all the way.”
In 2002 and 2005 the Wind Ensemble was honored with Downbeat Magazine’s Award for “Best Classical Instrumentalists” in the university symphonic category.
Jeffrey H. Renshaw was the conductor and director of the Wind Ensemble from 1993-2017, when he retired. The Wind Ensemble is now under the direction of Vu Nguyen.