BY AARON RILEY
The Cumberland County College Music Program began as a meager couplet of classes before evolving into a highlight of the Arts and Humanities Division. The change, which has enabled students to receive more thorough musical training and encounter a more fulfilling exhibition of the history and culture surrounding music, is thanks to a number of talented professors.
Dave Anderson teaches Piano, the Music Theory and Music History classes, and Ear Training and Sight Singing. Brian Betz teaches the Small Ensemble classes, World Music, Guitar and Jazz Composition. Lauren Canna teaches the College Chorus classes. Sheila Lowe teaches Gospel Choir. James Piccone, in addition to being the Dean of the Arts and Humanities Division, teaches Music Appreciation and has been readily involved in the Music Program for years. Joe Akinskas is the conductor of the two bigger bands, the Jazz Band and the Wind Symphony. The jazz band is a 19-piece orchestra while the Wind Symphony ensemble has 50 players. According to Piccone, “We don’t have enough enrolled music majors to fill the 50 seats in the Wind ensemble so we bring in people from the outside. Music is a highlight of the Arts and Humanities Division in the sense that it brings students and members of the community together [to fill that quota].” The theater and music programs have both grown in recent years, sometimes in tandem, as both theater and music are irrevocably linked. The band members play in the pit orchestra for the spring musicals; this spring they will lend their talent to the score for “Fiddler on the Roof.” The bands are heavily involved in extracurricular activities and community interaction.
They play every year at a venue in Baltimore or New York City, in nursing and Veterans Affairs homes, from local parks to as far as the Cape May boardwalk in the summer. The bands and chorus have taken part in many activities over the years, such as Music on the Mall. The Cumberland Mall website describes the former Music on the Mall events as the “collaboration of the Cumberland County College Music Department and Cumberland Mall to provide the community with an ongoing series of light repertoire concerts showcasing local musical talent.” The Bay-Atlantic Symphony frequently uses the college facilities to rehearse, in exchange offering four concert performances a year. On Saturday, March 24th at 8:00 PM in the Frank Guaracini Jr. Fine & Performing Arts Center, Hong Kong-born pianist and composer Lee Pui Ming will be performing her own work, She Comes to Shore: concerto for improvised piano and orchestra. The epic night will be capped off with the finale of Jean Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2.” Piccone, looking back at its history, summates the benefits of the Music Program: “When I came here to teach as an adjunct in 1997, we only had Fundamentals of Music and Music Appreciation. From that it has grown into a full-blown program. We have applied music lessons. There are five ensembles for students to choose from. It has become a pretty elaborate program that’s very transferable to a four-year college.”