UAA ensemble to play crowd favorites for spring commencement

While students are juggling their classes with studying and break time to recuperate, musicians prepare for the ensemble performance for the spring 2018 commencement.

Among the musicians, standard procedures of playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” the national anthem, the Alaska flag song and the UAA alma mater are well known and rehearsed. Once the students start walking to the stage for their diplomas, the “Star Wars” theme song commences.

Oleg Proskurnya, UAA’s adjunct University Sinfonia professor and conductor, decided to keep the “Star Wars” theme song to liven up the crowd.

Oleg Proskurnya, UAA’s University Sinfonia professor and conductor, rehearses with the UAA ensemble in preparation for the 2018 spring commencement. Photo credit: Jay Guzman

“I remember when we picked up ‘Star Wars’ for the first time. That was one of the music pieces that everyone loves. It was a sort of a unanimous decision,” Proskurnya said.

Proskurnya and Terry Hubble, UAA’s adjunct wind ensemble, also included the “Pink Panther” theme song in their set of music.

“The music we play is what’s easily recognizable by people to support the [celebratory] mood,” Proskurnya said.

Students, community members and high schoolers participate in the ensemble for the commencement and rehearse in the Fine Arts Building.

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Drew Cochran is in his first year at UAA playing the tuba and trombone.

“It’s part of the ensemble and what we do. I like “Star Wars.” I’d walk out like that,” Cochran said.

The rehearsals for the commencement pieces are short, but the students synchronize their body movements to emphasize the mood of each song. Wind and string instruments play together to create the full sound students, faculties, family and friends will hear during commencement.

Not only do the wind and string musicians rehearse together, vocalists like Christabel Sosa and Austin Rochon rehearse with the ensemble as well.

“I was really surprised when I walked in, and they were playing like they’ve been playing this for years,” Sosa said.

With a few more rehearsals to go through, Proskurnya and the ensemble will be ready to play in the Alaska Airlines Center on May 6 to celebrate this year’s graduates.