KU ensemble will debut emotionally charged music dedicated to 9/11
Peabody-Burns High School alumna Taylor Ensminger and 68 other students in the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble will board buses this week and travel to New York for an experience most musicians only dream of — performing in the famed Carnegie Hall.
The students leave Lawrence on Friday, perform Tuesday, and return to Kansas on March 27. Ensminger said the wind ensemble would be the only group onstage the night they perform.
“The piece we are premiering, ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’ by Mohammed Fairouz, is a 9/11 memorial,” she said. “I think the intent was to have it premier at a venue in New York City.”
Ensminger said the James Zokoura Family Foundation of Overland Park commissioned the composition expressly for the KU Wind Ensemble. Funding for the trip also came from the foundation, as well as other sponsors and donors.
“The concert will last about an hour or so,” she said. “Although Mr. Fairouz composed the piece and attends some of our rehearsals, we will be directed at Carnegie Hall by Dr. Paul Popiel, director of KU bands.”
No other group has ever performed the composition. Its ownership belongs to the KU students and their director.
“I really enjoy the piece,” Ensminger said. “It is full of emotions. The first movement depicts the regular atmosphere of a typical day in New York City and then suddenly there is an explosion of sound out of nowhere, very similar to the planes crashing into the towers.
“The percussion section, double bass, piano, and harp are the only instruments used during the second movement. It is very quiet and haunting. Mr. Fairouz described this movement as the rescue crews searching for bodies.
“The third movement is basically a political joke,” she continued. “We are divided into two groups and the music sounds like two political parties arguing. It reminds me of a talk show.
“And the fourth movement is my favorite. It is set at 60 beats per minute, so if you were to time it, it would be exactly 9 minutes and 11 seconds. It is titled, ‘Anniversaries,’ and it is a time to remember what happened. It starts out very soft and very thinly orchestrated,” she said. “More instruments are added and it slowly gets louder. By the end of the movement I am playing my horn as loudly as I ever have.”
“When the last note is hanging in the air and we all bring our instruments down is when I am able to remember 9/11. I think performing this piece in Carnegie Hall will amplify that feeling and it will move many people to tears.”
The students will visit the 9/11 Memorial as a group and take in a number of other New York sites and activities during their stay.
With roughly a year of rehearsal on “In the Shadow on No Towers” and the performance now just days away, Ensminger is excited not only about the privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall, but also about the group camaraderie that has developed among the musicians.
“It really is an honor to be able to experience something like this with the friends I’ve made at KU,” she said. “We have all worked hard for so long toward this single goal and it is finally paying off!”
Participation and seating in the KU Wind Ensemble are determined each semester by an audition. Ensminger has been a member of the group for three semesters. She also plays with the KU Symphony Orchestra, the Horn Ensemble, and a woodwind quintet.
Ensminger is a sophomore at KU, majoring in French horn performance. After receiving a bachelor of music degree, she plans to attend a music conservatory for a master’s degree in musicology and then pursue a doctoral degree. Her goal is to become a French horn professor and music history instructor at a small university.
She is a 2011 graduate of Peabody-Burns High School. Kevin Ensminger and Julia Ensminger are her parents.