Four of Mercer University’s Wind Ensemble students will participate in honor bands during the spring semester.

Freshman Lucas Meinberg, a flutist, has been selected for the 2023 Honors Performance Series Wind Ensemble that will perform at Carnegie Hall in February. Junior Sarah King and sophomores Cordelia Ciuk and Christian Van Nipper were chosen to play in the Intercollegiate Band at the College Band Directors National Association conference at the University of Georgia in February.

“These students are dedicated. They’re good musicians. They’re eager to learn more about their craft,” said Dr. Brittan Braddock, director of bands and assistant professor of music.

‘It almost doesn’t feel real’

A young person wearing a red and white striped shirt holds a flute on his shoulder
Lucas Meinberg. Photo courtesy Lucas Meinberg

Meinberg, a Fabian Distinguished Music Scholar and Bachelor of Music Performance student, will perform with students from all over the country as part of the 2023 Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

He came across the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall from an email. He previously made the Georgia All-State Band in high school and decided to audition for the young adults performance ensemble of the Honors Performance Series.

“It’s like an ecstatic feeling. It almost doesn’t feel real,” said Meinberg, who has played the flute for four years. “It’s been my dream for a while to perform at Carnegie Hall.”

He’s excited to perform and connect with peers who share his passion for music.

“When you get this opportunity to be able to perform with other passionate musicians, you kind of feel at home, and I’m really excited to feel that at Carnegie Hall,” he said. “I’m very happy to have all these opportunities here at Mercer and also with Carnegie Hall.”

Coming from Suwanee, he decided to attend Mercer because of the community atmosphere. He studies with Kelly Via, an adjunct professor in the School of Music who teaches flute, piccolo and flute choir.

“I felt like everyone was really in touch with the community here,” he said. “And everyone was super supportive when I came here for my audition, and it felt like the right place to be.”

‘Make music together’

Christian Van Nipper holds an oboe
Christian Van Nipper. Photo courtesy Christian Van Nipper

Van Nipper, who plays the oboe, will perform as part of the Intercollegiate College Band at the College Band Directors National Association. He said he is looking forward to meeting other musicians.

“It’s just always a really good experience to get together with players who you really don’t know and who have different backgrounds and to just make music together,” he said. “It definitely enhances your perspective, which kind of helps remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Van Nipper is double-majoring in music and computer engineering. He studies with Adrian Gnam, a distinguished artist-in-residence in Mercer’s School of Music.

“I enjoy the close, intimate kind of feel of the School of Music while we are also striving for excellence,” he said. “It felt very comfortable, very hospitable auditioning, and I love my professor. It seemed right to come here.”

‘The challenge in music’

Cordelia Ciuk plays the clarinet. Photo courtesy Cordelia Ciuk

Cordelia Ciuk, who is pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Music, is a clarinetist who also will attend the College Band Directors National Association conference.

“I love bands like this,” she said. “I’m excited for the challenge in music. I love being stumped by music and not being able to play it the first time we run through. I think that’s my favorite part.”

She said she’s also excited to make connections with other musicians.

“It’s so fun to start making connections young,” said Ciuk, who started out on bass clarinet before switching to clarinet. “And just meeting people who are also passionate about music and who also go to school for this is really refreshing.”

She said she was drawn to Mercer because of the campus and community feel. Ciuk studies with Dr. Monty Cole, professor of music and instrumental studies chair in the School of Music.

“Fickling Hall is our main performance hall, and it has the most gorgeous angelic sounds,” she said. “And everyone was just so nice and wonderful. And I love the fact that it’s like a smaller campus.”

‘Expand my musical knowledge’

Sarah King, right, is pictured with fellow musicians. Photo courtesy Sarah King

Sarah King, a music education major, picked up the bass clarinet four months ago, and now she’ll be performing with it with the Intercollegiate College Band. Her main instrument is the clarinet, and she also studies with Dr. Cole.

“I’m excited to hopefully find some new connections out in the world of music,” she said. “It hopefully will allow me to expand my musical knowledge in a way that I haven’t been able to experience before.”

At Mercer, she’s also a part of the marching band, where she’s one of the band captains.

“That really has given me a lot of great opportunities to teach and kind of work with different schools outside of Mercer,” said King, who has worked at band camps and different high schools.

Providing students opportunities to excel

Dr. Braddock said it’s her goal to collaborate with colleagues to help provide students opportunities to excel.

“That includes in our ensembles, in our classes, in our curriculum, but it also includes off-campus events, such as honor band,” she said. “One of my goals is to get our students involved in traveling nationally and internationally to participate in honor bands like these. Because I think once a student starts to understand there’s a wider world out there, then they start to elevate themselves because they gain a global perspective.”

She said the first step to international performance opportunities is to get involved in national groups.

Braddock performed in national and international bands while she was in college and those opportunities opened her eyes to a global perspective of music. She wants her students to have the same opportunities.

“It was really inspiring to me to sit in an ensemble with 15 nations represented — and different languages spoken — and play the same pieces,” Braddock said. “That’s that universal quality of music that I think we all love. … I’m really dedicated to finding those experiences for my students.”


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