EAC’s fine arts season to close with a flurry of free concerts

By Lori Dugan

Come enjoy symphonic, jazz, and orchestra concerts this coming week

THATCHER, Ariz.—Eastern Arizona College’s Fine Arts Division has been busy this semester with one entertaining performance after another. This coming week will not disappoint as the Music Department takes the stage for some very special concerts. The Jazz Band will open the run with the presentation of its 2019 Spring Jazz Concert on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., in the EAC Fine Arts Auditorium.

“This is our annual Spring Concert,” says Geoff DeSpain, Fine Arts Division chair and director of bands, “We have a lot of talent here and this will be an exciting concert. Please come out and enjoy an evening of jazz!”

Next up is the annual Symphonic Band Concert, “A Celebration of Life” on Friday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m., in the EAC Fine Arts Auditorium.

“We will be premiering a new piece, entitled ‘Chant, Songs, and Celebration,’ composed by Dr. Onsby Rose,” says Geoff DeSpain, director of bands. “This piece is dedicated to Brianna Varnam, one of our own band members who we lost in a car accident last semester. This concert celebrates the lives of those that we have lost too soon.”

The annual Spring Orchestra Concert is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m., in the Fine Arts Auditorium. This year’s presentation will feature two of EAC’s student competition winners; Marshall Adams, pianist, will play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Brian Flores, saxophonist, will be featured during Charles Gounod’s Symphony No. 1 in D.

The final fine arts performance of the year will be a new addition to the calendar with the EAC Community Jazz Band taking the Lee Little Theater stage on May 7, at 7:30 p.m. for the Spring Community Jazz Band Concert. Members of this class-turned-band include Kei Sundt, Hyla Cline, Lorene Shiflet, David Griffith, Kay Ferrin, Castro Jimenez, Alexandra Rodriquez, Phil McBride, Mark Rethy, Ron Shiflet, Gary Sorensen, Byron Bolen, Amy Wilson, Michael Wilson, Nate DeRusha, John Luna, and Paul Roberts.

Attendees can look forward to hearing music by Steve Allen, Sammy Nestico, Chuck Mangione, and many more.

Admission to the concerts is free to the public and is appropriate for all ages. For more information about this event contact EAC Fine Arts Division Chair Geoff DeSpain at (928) 428-8465.

Program Notes for the Band Concert

A Celebration of Life

This has been a very difficult year for us with Eastern Arizona College Bands.  In October, we lost one of our own, Brianna Varnam, in a car accident that took her life.  In February, Thomas Williams, a former band student, took his own life.  Losing two students in one year has been difficult for us to handle.

Brianna was a 2018 graduate of Safford High School, a trombone player.  She come to EAC as a freshman.  She marched in Monster Band and played in the Jazz Band.  She was well loved by all who knew her.  She was obsessed with the Korean culture, and was almost fluent in Korean.  One of her life goals was to go to Korea someday.  Brianna has been missed.  At her funeral, we teamed up with the Safford High School Band, and jointly played one of her favorite songs, “Welcome to the Black Parade.”  This was a start to help us heal.

Thomas first came to EAC several years ago.  He was a guitar player, and he played in the Jazz Band for many years.  He also played percussion in the Symphonic Band and Marching Band.  Thomas came to us from Show Low High School.  He was a great big teddy bear and everyone loved him.  He was always enthusiastic, and had a positive way about him to bring others up.  He will most remembered from the football games when he would chant “Chris is playing the drums!”  This started as a goofy thing, but escalated into an integral part of our marching band repertoire.  Thomas has also been sorely missed.

If I could go back and hug Brianna and Thomas once again, I would them how loved they are.

Out of tragedy, many good things have come about.  Brianna’s family have created a scholarship in her name to go to a graduate of Safford High School, who will be in the

In the fall, I commissioned a new piece of concert band music from a composer named Dr. Onsby Rose.  After Brianna’s death, I asked Dr. Rose to dedicate the piece to Brianna.  He was overwhelmed by this, and I don’t blame him.  He composed an incredible piece of music for us, Chant, Songs, and Celebration.  This piece has helped us heal as well, and as a conductor, this has become one of my top two favorite concert band pieces.  After the premiere tonight, this piece will be published and will be available across the country for other bands to purchase and perform.

Onsby was unable to be with us tonight, but he did come and work with us earlier this semester.  We performed the piece for him, he discussed his inspiration for it and answered many questions about the piece.  He then conducted it with us.  This time we spent together was very emotional.

Tonight, we are very privileged to have Christian Varnam, Jacob Varnam, Brianna’s brothers, and Samantha Daly, Brianna’s cousin, join us as we premiere, Chant, Songs, and Celebration.  Please note the empty chair in the trombone section.  That was Brianna’s.

In February, a tragic accident took the life of another EAC student, Parker Lynch.  While I did not personally know Parker, his death was felt by all.  Many band members knew him and loved him.  He is missed as much as the others.

Julie Giroux, a composer, said, “Music grieves, it mourns, and it heals.”  My hope is that the music tonight will help us heal from the loss of our loved ones, who are our friends and family.

Geoff DeSpain