Ensemble Spotlight: Campus Philharmonia welcomes musicians from throughout the UW

The Campus Philharmonia
Graduate student Tigran Arakelyan conducts the Campus Philharmonia, a new School of Music ensemble open to musicians from throughout the campus community. Photo: David Alexander Rahbee

School of Music Constituency Relations Officer

Prior to this academic year, UW students who wished to participate in the UW Symphony Orchestra faced a rigorous rehearsal schedule often too difficult to navigate around academic and extracurricular commitments.

“It’s a big time commitment and most students can’t fit it in their schedule. It was obvious there were lots of players out there that weren’t coming to play because they just didn’t have the time,” says Dr. David Rahbee, director of Orchestral Activities at the UW.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rahbee and the UW's orchestral conducting students, a new UW ensemble, The University of Washington Campus Philharmonia, kicked off its inaugural season this past fall, expanding performance opportunities for time-pressed students from throughout the university.

Developed out of an expanding conducting program, the Campus Philharmonia serves as both a community orchestra for students of all academic backgrounds and a laboratory for conducting students within the School of Music.

With practices scheduled just once a week and an open door policy on accepting new members throughout the academic year, the Campus Philharmonia provides a welcoming entry point for UW students outside of the School of Music.

But the benefit of the Philharmonia goes beyond creating greater access to music for students. The ensemble also provides the opportunity for graduate conducting students to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of faculty.

 “Most reputable schools of music that have [orchestral] conducting programs have a group that the students can work with on a weekly basis,” says Rahbee. All music students must have access to applied experience as part of their education. For conducting students, the Campus Philharmonia brings that experience to life.

“It’s like being a violinist and not having your violin to practice. You can look at the music as much as you want and think about what will you do, but what you [think] you will do is very different from what you actually do when you get up there,” says Tigran Arakelyan, a second year DMA student in Orchestral Conducting.

Arakelyan is one of two conducting students who work with the Campus Philharmonic each week. The responsibility to organize the ensemble rests with the conducting students, who receive guidance from Rahbee and Maestro Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Symphony Music Director and Chair of the UW's Orchestral Conducting program. In rehearsal, students work side-by-side with Rahbee and Morlot and receive feedback as they prepare the scores for their next concert. For the conducting program, the Campus Philharmonia is a homegrown supplement to the educational experience.

“We are trying to give our conducting students a lot of opportunity in a place that has a lot of potential,” Rahbee says.

The UW Campus Philharmonia’s next concert is set for Thursday, March 12, 7:30 p.m., Kane Hall 130. Admission is free.