by Grace Chalmers
WINONA, Minn. — Music lovers one and all, mark your calendars for a celebration of music you don’t want to miss!
The Saint Mary’s University Concert Band, Concert Choir, and Jazz Ensembles will be performing their spring concerts at the Music Alumni Reunion Weekend on April 15 and 16 — and you’ll want to be sure to attend.
The concerts will serve not only as a celebration of music but of musicians — specifically longtime faculty members Janet and Eric Heukeshoven.
The completion of this school year will also be the conclusion of Janet’s 33 years of serving Saint Mary’s as a professor of music and music education. Eric, a former associate professor of music, concluded his 36 years of teaching last year, although he continued to instruct the jazz ensembles this school year.
The pair have been well-loved and respected figures on the Winona Campus since their beginnings. This is evident in the over 150 SMU alumni who are returning to Winona to take part in the Heukeshovens’ final concerts at the university.
They’re thrilled that so many of their students continue to be involved in music.
“I want my last concert to be a celebration, not a funeral,” said Janet. “We want to celebrate our time with our students. I’m overjoyed.”
The alumni come from all three music ensembles, and many will be participating in more than one concert.
The choir will kick off the Music Alumni Reunion Weekend on Saturday, April 15, at Chapel of Saint Mary of the Angels at 7:30 p.m. The jazz ensemble and concert band will perform the following day at 3 p.m. on the Page Stage at the Winona Campus.
The jazz ensemble performance will feature alumni soloing on guitar, drums, tenor saxophone, and even vocals.
The concert band will be premiering an original piece by composer Benjamin Dean Taylor, Towards the Stars, thanks to the Kaplan Foundation commission.
The Kaplan commission is a longstanding tradition for the concert band. In 1998, SMU received a large grant to cultivate a Jewish-Christian dialogue on campus with the goal of teaching and learning about Judaism.
Janet had the idea to commission music pieces from Jewish composers for the concert band.
“Right away, I was thinking ‘What better way to have a dialogue than through music, with a piece for the band by a Jewish composer?” said Janet.
Towards the Stars is the 10th Kaplan commission written for the Saint Mary’s concert band. Dating back to the year 2000 with a piece by Steven Barnett, there has been a commissioned piece every 2-3 years since.
The composers are given the freedom to write for band, jazz band, choir, or a combination of the groups.
The commissions are Janet’s favorite memories throughout her time at SMU.
“The variety of music that we facilitated through the Kaplan commissions is just so special,” said Janet. “The students connecting with composers through their songs has been so impactful.
The concert band will also be performing The Elephant and the Flea, a song featuring a duet for piccolo and euphonium — which will be performed by Janet and Eric, respectively.
“It’s a cute tune that’s fun to play as a couple,” said Eric.
The duo have been performing together for 48 years, and have been performing The Elephant and the Flea since 2010.
“It’s a joy for us to get to do this again,” said Eric. “It’s something fun to do at the last concert.”
As the concerts approach, the excitement and emotions are building. The Heukeshovens emphasized the importance of keeping music in their lives and the lives of students — current, past, and future.
“Keep music in your life,” said Janet. “And if it ain’t there, get it there!” added Eric.