Baylor Wind Ensemble wows audience, prepares for tour

The Baylor Band and Wind Ensemble performs Jan. 10 of this year at Jones Concert Hall. Courtesy Photo | Dr. J. Eric Wilson

By JP Graham | Reporter

Baylor University’s Wind Ensemble performed alongside director of bands Dr. J. Eric Wilson Monday night in the Jones Concert Hall, accompanied by tuba soloist and associate professor of tuba/euphonium Dr. Kent Eshelman.

Wilson and the Wind Ensemble dedicated a section of Monday’s performance to Wilson’s former high school band director, William Kenneth “Bill” Goodson, who passed away in January. Wilson shared that Goodson inspired him to commit to music as a craft and an art form.

“Through practice and private lessons, he helped me see that I could be serious about this. It wasn’t just about having fun and playing around with music,” Wilson said. “It required an approach for tenacity and intensity … If you were going to be good and achieve a certain level, you really had to commit and be dedicated to it.”

Monday was the Wind Ensemble’s second-to-last performance before embarking on their spring break tour. The tour will stop in Abilene, Lubbock, and Albuquerque, concluding in Fort Worth at the American Bandmasters Association convention, which is one of the most prestigious conventions the band has been invited to.

Eshelman, principal tuba of the Waco Symphony Orchestra, will accompany the Wind Ensemble during their spring break tour. As a soloist, Eshelman has placed first in numerous competitions, including the Jeju and Leonard Falcone international competitions.

Eshelman and the Wind Ensemble have played together prior to this tour. Eshelman said his favorite piece that has he played with the Wind Ensemble was specifically designed for them. In 2013, he was able to obtain funding and commission a piece from Emmy-Award winning TV and film composer, Bruce Broughton.

“He’s a well-known composer in especially movie soundtracks and TV soundtracks,” Eshelman said. “It was fun to play a piece that was brand new and specifically written for me.”

Eshelman has prepared an encore piece in which he plays both piano and tuba at the same time. He will perform it the night before the band leaves for their spring break tour. Eshelman said, aside from holding the instruments correctly, playing them simultaneously isn’t much of a problem.

“You have to be able to do something completely different with your left hand and right hand at the same time,” Eshelman said. “Really just holding the tuba is the biggest challenge, because I can think and play the tuba with my right hand just as second nature as playing the piano with my left hand.”

Wilson said that the American Band Association convention is prestigious because they begin the selection process for upcoming performances three years in advance.

“They asked me three years ago if we would be one of the headline ensembles to play,” Dr. Wilson said. “So we agreed then, and now we’re just seeing it play itself out.”

The Baylor Wind Ensemble has participated in the ABA convention before, but this will be Wilson’s first time.

The Wind Ensemble and Dr. Eshelman will perform once more at 7:30 p.m. on March 1 in Jones Concert Hall, before embarking on their spring break tour.