Not knowing how to fluently play an instrument, and having a dismal background in classical music, I was truly in for a treat on Nov. 19.

As the lights dimmed on the newly rejuvenated stage, the Eastman Wind Orchestra played the music of “Southern Harmony” as it filled the Eastman Theatre. The exotic sounds of music were fit for the modern audience members who thoroughly enjoyed the performance. “Southern Harmony” uses chord positions and progressions that were far out of the ordinary for musical pieces of its time. There is no doubt that this particular piece was far ahead of its time, considering the remarkable applause.

As the performance continued, under the conducting experience of Mark Scatterday, a different tone was set. During “Circuits” the addition of jazz elements and the increase of employing syncopation, sudden transposition and juxtaposition gave the piece a unique feel.

An exciting ingredient in appreciating this piece was the fact that one can hear every individual instrument. From the flute, to the saxophone, to the trombone, to the bassoon, every instrument added a magnificent harmonious component allowing the music to flow well through the pillars of the stadium.

As the lights slowly turned on, announcing the intermission, the atmosphere of my surrounding was quite different. Young college students were all buzzing about the next performance. Though the first half of the concert was quite impressive, I did not expect the second half to amaze me as much. After further analyzing the Eastman Theatre with my peers, the lights dimmed once again.

On the program was the “Concerto for Percussion,” written by former Eastman School of Music professor Dr. Joseph Schwanter. A little history about the concerto is that it was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary in 1992. However, the work premiered in New York in 1995.

Without much adieu, Jeff Willy walked gallantly on stage, showing stature and exuding confidence. This part of the concert certainly moved everyone in the audience.

Willy worked in both harmony and conjunction with other percussionists at first, creating music that I had previously never heard on the Eastman stage. He forcefully and passionately took his amazing musical talent and transferred that into a battery of timbales, a pair of bongos, amplified marimba, xylophone and a two-octave set of crotales, antique cymbals.

During the second movement, Willy took center stage, as the other percussionist and accompanying musicians remained virtually silent. It was during this movement that Willy’s true talent shown, as the focus was primarily on him. He essentially glided on stage, picking up the appropriate striking instrument and filling the theater with fascinating music.

The transition between the second and third movements was utterly genius. The slow and much more mellowed second movement magically transforms into a fast and rhythmic third movement. Though no longer on center stage, the audience was captivated and could not keep their eyes off of Willy. The movement’s final section proceeds to a high-energy cadenza and concludes leaving the audience wanting more.

Highly impressed with the performance of Jeff Willy, I quickly jetted to the backstage area where I would be able to congratulate him. Much to my dismay, I was beaten by nearly the entire theater. When I finally spotted him, he was surrounded by a mob of people while receiving nothing but praise and admiration. So I did a little more research on Willy.

He is currently a senior at the Eastman School of Music and is completing not only his B.M. in Applied Percussion, but is also finishing up his B.S. in molecular genetics at the River Campus. This past year he played with the Eastman Wind Ensemble as part of their oversees tour in Japan, Taiwan and Macao.

In the near future, Willy will perform at Carnegie Hall during the CBDNA National Conference. Continuing to show the world how remarkable he is, Willy is the current vice president of Eastman’s Student Association, president of Phi Mu Alpha and an Eastman Ambassador.

Without any doubt, the Eastman Wind Orchestra’s performance truly inspired me to continue attending other concerts just so that I can continue to experience euphoria when listening to the music.

Buitrago can be reached at

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