UNCSA Wind Ensemble presents rousing circus-themed concert

Popular marches, fanfares and circus-style entertainment are on tap when the Wind Ensemble of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts presents its family-friendly concert Barnstormers and Circus Screamers at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Stevens Center, 405 West Fourth St. in downtown Winston-Salem. The concert was rescheduled from Friday, Feb. 8.

Faculty-artist Mark Norman conducts the 90-minute concert, which includes guest soloists from the UNCSA School of Music faculty, a performance by School of Drama alumnus and clowning expert Dikki Ellis, and pre-concert entertainment in the lobby and throughout the venue by high school Drama students, who will demonstrate circus skills like plate-spinning, juggling, and sleight-of-hand magic tricks. The 65-member Wind Ensemble will perform music made famous by the Sousa, Fillmore, and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus Bands.

Tickets are $20 regular and $15 students with valid ID, and are available online or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945. UNCSA is offering a one-time special of free tickets for those 12 and under.  

Norman, who teaches tuba and euphonium, likened the faculty soloists to stunt pilots of the early 20th century, known as barnstormers. “They would perform acrobatic aerial feats and tricks that show off their skills to entertain audiences,” he said. “During our concert, the soloists will be performing very flashy, technical and musically acrobatic pieces meant to wow the audience with their virtuosity.”

During our concert, the soloists will be performing very flashy, technical and musically acrobatic pieces meant to wow the audience with their virtuosity.

Mark Norman, conductor of the Wind Ensemble

Soloists are John Beck, xylophone; Mary Bowden and David Dash, cornet; and Robert Young, saxophone.

The screamers, he said, are staples of the circus band – and military band – repertoire: “very quick marches featuring lots of technique, flair and energy.” 

A former member of the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., Norman said it’s important to expose student musicians to the repertoire. “If they want a job with a top military band, this is what they will be performing,” he said. “Plus, this music is just fun.”

In a bit of pageantry borrowed from Sousa’s band, different sections of the student ensemble will perform short novelty pieces meant to highlight their musical talent, a practice known as “showing off before the company.”

The Wind Ensemble will perform:

  • “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorites” composed by Karl L. King;
  • “In Storm and Sunshine” by J.C. Heed;
  • Excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”;
  • “Entry of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik;
  • “Finale” to William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini;
  • “Farandole” from “Carmen” by Georges Bizet;
  • “Can Can” from “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Jacques Offenbach;
  • and “Rolling Thunder” by Henry Fillmore.

Individual faculty soloists will join the Wind Ensemble for “Norma” by Jean Baptiste Arban, “The Thunderer” by John Philip Sousa, “Carnival of Venice” arranged by Del Staigers, “Night on Fire” by John Mackey, “Xylophonia” by Joe Green, “Semper Fidelis” by Sousa, and “Fantasie Brilliante” by Arban.  

Drama alumnus and clowning expert Dikki Ellis will perform durign the Feb. 26 concert

Alumnus Dikki Ellis will perform excerpts from his one-man clowning show. / Photo: G. Allen Aycock

For the concert finale, School of Drama alumnus Dikki Ellis will treat the audience to excerpts from his one-man clowning show, which he performs more than 200 times each year. Ellis has been associated with New York’s Big Apple Circus for more than 30 years and is a founding member of its Clown Care Unit, a community outreach program for hospitalized children. He is the artistic director of UNCSA’s Artists Reaching Children in Hospitals (ARCH) project, training high school seniors in the School of Drama to perform circus skills for patients at Brenner Children’s Hospital. The Drama students will perform during the concert finale and will greet audience members as they arrive for the concert.

About the featured artists

John Beck is chair of the Brass and Percussion Department in the top-ranked UNCSA School of Music and principal percussionist of the Winston-Salem Symphony.  He also performs with the Greensboro Symphony, the Brass Band of Battle Creek and the Philidor Percussion Group. He is the recipient of a Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service from the League of American Orchestras for his outreach activities and research into the therapeutic benefits of interactive group drumming.

John Beck chairs the Brass and Percussion Department at UNCSA

John Beck chairs the Brass and Percussion Department at UNCSA.

A former member of the U.S. Marine Band, he also performed regularly for a decade with the National and Baltimore symphonies, Washington and Baltimore operas, and the Theater Chamber Players of the Kennedy Center. Beck has toured the United States as a xylophone soloist with the Jack Daniel's Silver Cornet Band, Brass Band of Battle Creek, and the New Sousa Band. He is a Past President of the Percussive Arts Society and presents clinics endorsing Yamaha percussion instruments, Zildjian cymbals, and Innovative mallets and is a Remo Endorsed Drum Circle Facilitator in the health and wellness community.

Beck has a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music with performer's certificate from the Eastman School of Music.

Mary Elizabeth Bowden is a resident artist in the Brass Department of the UNCSA School of Music. A Gold Medal Global Music Award winner, she has performed as soloist with the Peninsula Symphony in California; Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra; Croatian Army Wind Band; Festival Amadeus Strings in Montana; Fifth Avenue Chamber Orchestra and Naples Symphony in Naples, Fla.; Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra; San Juan Symphony; and New Haven Chamber Orchestra. She was principal trumpet of the Sarasota Opera Orchestra, Lakes Area Music Festival Orchestra, New Zealand’s Auckland Philharmonia, the Daejeon Philharmonic in Korea,  Seraphic Fire’s Firebird Chamber Orchestra,  and the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland. She performed many dates on pop artist Adele’s 2017 North America tour.

Mary Elizabeth Bowden is resident artist in the School of Music.

Mary Elizabeth Bowden is resident artist in the School of Music.

Bowden won first prize in the 2012 International Women’s Brass Conference Trumpet Competition. She has collaborated in chamber music programs at the Marlboro Music Festival, Lakes Area Music Festival, The Banff Centre and at the Sydney Opera House. She is a founder and leader of Seraph Brass, which performed as a featured ensemble at the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference and at the Lieksa Brass Week in Finland.

She has a Bachelor of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music and a Master of Music from Yale University. She has previously taught at Virginia Commonwealth University and at The Curtis Institute of Music’s Young Artist Summer Program.

David Dash joined the UNCSA School of Music faculty in 2017. In the summer, he performs with the Santa Fe Opera. He was assistant principal trumpet of the Naples (Fla.) Philharmonic and a member of the U.S. Marine Band, where he toured much of the country and performed as a soloist, including a performance of “Taps” at the nationally broadcast PBS Memorial Day Concert.

David Dash teaches trumpet in the School of Music.

David Dash teaches trumpet in the School of Music.

He has also performed with the Baltimore, Atlanta and San Francisco symphonies, the Florida Orchestra, Sarasota Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

His recordings include the Grammy-nominated “Cold Mountain” with the Santa Fe Opera, in addition to “American Anthems” with the Gramercy Brass Band; and “Symphonic Dances” with the U.S. Marine Band.

Dash has a Bachelor of Music from Rice University and a Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music. He received scholarships to the Orchestra Institute in Attergau, Austria, and to the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

He performs as part of the Bowden-Dash duo with his wife, trumpet soloist Mary Elizabeth Bowden.

Dikki Ellis has been associated with the Big Apple Circus for more than 30 years, first as teacher then as featured performer in “East Meets West” and “Happy On” shows under the Big Top at Lincoln Center in New York City.  As a founding member of “Clown Care Unit” in 1987, he began a journey as clown Dr. Trikki.  Since 1994 he has been director of the clown division for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

He received his B.F.A. from the UNCSA School of Drama and studied at Circus Dimitri School in Switzerland. He is co-founder of the Hanlon Lee Action Theater, the first troupe to perform theatrical jousting in America. He is co-producer of “The Wonder Quest,” a traveling magic show for children’s television, and for “The Secrets of Magic” DVD collection.

In 2005, Ellis received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Big Apple Circus in recognition of his contribution to Clown Care. He is also the recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Award in recognition of humanitarian causes, named for the Swedish humanitarian credited with saving tens of thousands of Jews in Hungary during the Holocaust.

Since 1995, Ellis has been a frequent guest artist at UNCSA, where he is artistic director of A.R.C.H. (Artists Reaching Children in Hospitals). For more than 30 years he has successfully produced “The Dikki Ellis Show,” a one-man clowning show which he performs 200 times a year.

Mark Norman teaches tuba and euphonium and is director of Wind Ensembles at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He previously taught at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Michigan, Washburn University and Towson University. Professional performance experience includes the U.S. Navy Band, Georgetown Symphony, McLean Orchestra, Loudoun Symphony, Vernon Symphony, Washington Brass, Fountain City Brass Band, Dominion Brass and Tubas in the Sun Quartet. He has also performed as substitute with the North Carolina Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Fairfax Symphony and Topeka Symphony.

Mark Norman conduct the UNCSA Wind Ensemble.

Mark Norman teaches tuba and euphonium in the School of Music.

Norman was nominated for a Grammy Award producing the recording “Fireworks” with the UNC- Greensboro Wind Ensemble. He is the first tuba performer to win the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Concerto Competition and is a two-time first place winner of the Southeast TUBA Solo Competition. He took second place at International Tuba/Euphonium Association Quartet Competition in Budapest, Hungary, with Tubas in the Sun, and as a member of the Fountain City Brass Band, he won the Scottish Open Brass Band Championships in 2009, North American Brass Band Championships in 2010 and the U.S. Open Brass Band Championships in 2009 and 2010.

Norman has a Bachelor of Music in tuba performance, a Master of Music in instrumental conducting, and a Doctor of Musical Arts, all from UNC-Greensboro.

Robert Young joined the School of Music faculty in 2016. He was a guest performer with the PRISM Quartet on the Grammy Award-winning album, “The Fifth Century,” with the chamber choir The Crossing.

Robert Young teaches saxophone in the School of Music.

Robert Young teaches saxophone in the School of Music.

Prior to joining UNCSA, Young held teaching positions at SUNY-Potsdam's Crane School of Music, Wichita State University, Albion College, and the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts. In the summers of 2007-10 he was on the faculty of the M-Pulse Saxophone Workshop held at the University of Michigan.

Young has received numerous awards including semifinalist at the 2009 Concert Artists Guild International Competition (N.Y.), silver medalist at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, third prize in the North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition,  first prize of the Society of Musical Arts Competition, winner of Tuesday Musicale of Detroit Competition, first prize in the Josie Etta Daley Young Artist Competition, first prize in the 2002 Music Teachers National Association, winner of the USC Young Artist Concerto Competition, and a finalist in the University of Michigan Concerto Competition.

In addition to the PRISM Quartet, he has performed with the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Charleston (S.C.) Symphony Orchestra and University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared as a soloist with the Wichita State University Orchestra, Wichita State University Wind Ensemble, Minot Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan Concert Band.

He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music from the University of Michigan.

by Lauren Whitaker

February 11, 2019