National association taps LSU Wind Ensemble for first Reno performance

LSU Wind Ensemble Members
LSU Wind Ensemble director Dr. Ken Narducci.
LSU Wind Ensemble director Dr. Ken Narducci.

March 5, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker

“Measure 255. Let’s go,” said Director Ken Narducci as he guided the 45-member La Sierra University Wind Ensemble to a portion of their scores during a recent rehearsal. “You need to breathe with everybody. You were early – by a millisecond,” he grinningly admonished a young player while the ensemble found measure 255.

The ensemble, comprised mainly of students with a few community members and university staff mixed in, has been packing in three lunchtime rehearsals a week and holding extra sectionals this past quarter, all in preparation for the group’s most significant performance to date – a full concert during the College Band Directors National Association’s West/Northwest Conference in Reno, Nev. on March 11. The performance will be the La Sierra University Wind Ensemble’s first appearance at the invitational event.

CBDNA’s division leadership selected La Sierra’s ensemble last June to perform at the conference with groups from nine other universities around the west. The association based its decision on a compact disc recording Narducci submitted last May of Wind Ensemble performances.

La Sierra’s musical contingent will showcase their talents along with performance ensembles from Brigham Young University, Idaho State University, the University of Montana, the University of Utah, Northern Arizona University, the University of Redlands, California State University, Long Beach, the University of Alberta, and the University of Nevada.

The La Sierra group will embark on a nine-hour bus trip on March 10, heading for the University of Nevada, Reno where the conference will take place. The following three days, each university group will play a one-hour program in UNR’s Nightingale Concert Hall beginning with La Sierra’s presentation at 1 p.m.

“For me, it’s one of those mountaintop experiences and a tremendous sense of accomplishment blended with a certain amount of risk,” Narducci said. “Getting accepted was a huge honor. Now we have to come up with the goods. I’ve given it to the Lord and He has pretty much taken over.”

The ensemble consists mostly of players who have stayed with the group over the past year or more, providing the continuity that results from a core cast familiar with each other and their director.

The group’s preparations include three preview concerts of the program planned for the CBDNA conference. The ensemble played the entire program at Loma Linda University Church on Feb. 20 and will perform the program again on March 7 at 4 p.m., at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 5545 Alessandro Blvd. in Riverside. On March 6, the group will play various works from the program during the 11 a.m. worship service at the La Sierra University Church, 4937 Sierra Vista Ave., Riverside.

The Wind Ensemble’s concert lineup includes Stephen Melillo’s exciting “Godpseed!,” Timothy Mahr’s introspective “Imagine, if you will...,” David Maslanka’s powerful “Give Us This Day,” and Andrew Boysen’s joyful “December Dance.”

The program also includes Frank Ticheli’s dramatic and unique “Angels in the Architecture,” a piece that contrasts moments of light and dark and conjures the ethereal when musicians rub tops of water glasses filled at different levels to produce whirling-sounding notes and a flautist adds high, soft vocal phrases.

Alto saxophonist and music major David Hong said he expects to start cramming in extra practicing this weekend. He’ll start to feel nervous a couple of days before the conference, most likely, he said, but knows he can rely on Narducci. The director leads his group over the roughest spots in the music “until we have it down pat,” Hong said. “He’s very calm and that shows he has a lot of trust in us.”

The conference performance will give La Sierra a chance to “show what is has to offer,” Hong said. “It’s awesome to get to go out to a big university and play for other people. They get a chance to see what we can do.”

“La Sierra University is delighted that the Wind Ensemble will have the opportunity to represent the university at the College Band Directors National Association conference,” said La Sierra University President Randal Wisbey.  

“The students who perform in the group represent the very best of La Sierra University’s commitment to excellence,” he said. “Dr. Narducci’s ability to inspire students to produce such remarkable music is an invaluable asset to our university family. We are delighted that this will be the second time that he is being recognized for his conducting.”

The national association first selected one of Narducci’s groups for the western conference in 1996, tapping the wind ensemble he directed at Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College are among 15 universities and colleges in the United States and Canada owned by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Narducci is the only director from a Seventh-day Adventist institution to receive the CBDNA’s performance invitation.

Narducci said he gained a lot of knowledge from his experience performing at the conference in ‘96. Next week’s CBDNA concert “really is going to be a neat celebration for us,” he said.

Narducci grew up in Hayward, Calif. where he began playing piano at age eight. The following year, he began playing a trumpet his father had kept from his time serving in World War II when he played while a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corp and directed the field band and dance band. During high school, the music bug truly kicked in and Narducci knew what he wanted to do for a career. He joined a band pulled together by an influential director and was a member of the school’s Jazz Band when it made the finals at the Reno Jazz Festival.

Narducci earned a Bachelor’s of Music degree from Pacific Union College and Doctor of Musical Arts in music theory from the University of Oregon at Eugene. He taught at PUC from 1982 to 2006 and along the way earned the local and national Zapara Excellence in Teaching Awards in the humanities and PUC’s Educator of the Year award.

Narducci and his wife, Julie, a fellow musician, former music educator and Wind Ensemble clarinetist, arrived at La Sierra University in 2006 from PUC. Narducci also directs La Sierra’s Big Band and teaches conducting, counterpoint, orchestration and composition. He plays horn with the Moreno Valley Wind Symphony and the LSU Brass Quintet.


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  March 17, 2010