Campus Joe

“Campus Joe” is a biweekly column from Oracle columnist Joe Polito that explores random spots on USF’s campus. How does it work? Polito throws a dart at a large map and goes there to find a story.

My dart found its way to the loudest part of campus this week, landing between the Fine Arts Building (FAH) and the music department.

Walking up to the building, I could hear a vast collection of sounds, both vocal and instrumental.

The School of Music broke ground for a new music building and performance auditorium last year. Students are expected to begin using the new facility by spring 2011, according to the College of Fine Arts’ Web site.

While they wait for these much-needed renovations, students and faculty of the USF music program are hard at work rehearsing for performances.

I slipped inside an Opera Workshop class, with students fast at work warming their vocal chords.

Amber Koenig, a junior majoring in vocal performance, said it was the chorus for their upcoming opera, “Dido and Aeneas.”

Though tempted to conduct the entire interview in an operatic voice, I refrained when I saw how nervous Koenig was.

For her, singing is more play than work.

“It’s not really hard — it’s fun,” she said. “The hardest part is memorizing music and some exercises for improv and things like that to get our creative juices flowing.”

In her spare time, Koenig sings for her church and teaches private classes. She hopes to sing opera professionally one day.

Koenig believes the new music facilities will allow for major improvement and expansion.

“The better the building, the better the equipment, the better the instructors and so on,” she said. “It will all fall into place.”

Jack Rain accompanied the class on piano and has been at USF for more than 35 years. As a musical accompanist, Rain plays alongside students in their classes and rehearsals.

He also coaches students on their foreign diction and pronunciation in languages including French, Italian and German.

“I got a degree in education to teach, and jobs just never came along, and I was always doing music on the side and that became my career,” he said. “I play organ for First Presbyterian — huge organ. It’s a fun life.”

Just upstairs and down the hall from the classroom, I caught up with Brandon Jones, a sponsored musician who travels to teach clinics and give performances around the world.

Sponsored by the music company Besson, Jones plays the euphonium. If you’re like me and haven’t heard of this instrument, just picture a small tuba.

“I’ve been all over the place — Russia, Finland, Canada and Mexico,” Jones said. “Typically, I am gone 10 days out of the month, typically (to) universities.”

I caught Jones on his break between the classes and lessons he was teaching on his last day in town. He talked about his love of music.

Jones never dreamt he would end up a touring, sponsored musician. He said you can’t just be a run-of-the-mill musician.

“You need a little bit of talent and a lot of luck,” he said. “Having the right people hear you at the right time — always playing your best even when you think no one is listening — is really important.”

Jones said he finds his job very fulfilling — being able to perform and share what he knows.

“It’s not like a ritzy, six-figure glamorous thing. There’s lots of things you could do sitting behind a desk that will make you a lot more money,” he said. “But as any musician will tell you, you do it because you love it.”