The Spirit of American Innovation: Biola Symphonic Winds Concert

Biola Symphonic Winds ensemble performs songs which celebrate American inventions.


Haven Luper-Jasso//CHIMES

The Symphonic Winds ensemble serenades the audience.

Patricia Yang, Staff Writer

The ensemble filed on stage, instruments in hand: flutes, trumpets, clarinets and horns. The musicians’ warm-up prevailed over the babble of the audience until the lights flickered, signaling the start of the concert. The conductor and director of the ensemble, Matthew Ordaz, waved his baton, and immediately the concert hall resounded with the bang of the drum. Biola’s Symphonic Winds concert began, playing songs harkening to the “Spirit of American Innovation.”

Symphonic Winds is one of Biola’s largest ensembles in the music conservatory. While an orchestra centers mainly around string instruments — such as violins and cellos — Symphonic Winds is the playground for the woodwinds, brass and percussion. Clarinets, flutes, saxophones and trumpets are but a few of the many instruments found in this ensemble.


The theme for Symphonic Winds’ program was “The Spirit of American Innovation,” featuring songs that celebrate inventions and American creations. 

“I’ve always loved the Americana type of music — composers like Aaron Copland who have created the sound of America,” Ordaz said. “Finding things like that was how it started, and eventually we wound up with Aerodynamics.”

Ordaz enjoyed Aerodynamics as a story-driven piece. 

“You can follow that story line and have those big, epic brass fanfares at the end,” he said.

Aerodynamics is a song about the invention of flight, made of six sections: Invention; Dayton, Ohio, 1903; The Wright Brothers; Construction; Flight and Celebration. Each section is unique, expressing the various stages of the journey, whether it is a frantic atmosphere or a grand and joyous fanfare.

Another song from the program was Radiant Joy, a jazz-styled piece. This piece was all about “good vibes,” and, according to Ordaz, it lived up to its name.

“Every time we rehearsed [this piece], everyone kind of just got in a good mood, so that was fun,” Ordaz said.

Radiant Joy featured an instrument called the vibraphone, a keyboard-type percussion instrument similar to a xylophone. “It gets its name for the vibrato it has,” Ordaz said. Vibrato is a technique that adds more expression to a vocal or instrumental tone. “It has a motor and fans in the resonator tubes that spin, so it gives a [unique] sound effect,” Ordaz said. 

Biola Symphonic Winds also performed “Rendezvous with the Other Side,” led by assistant conductor Jenna Santa Maria, as well as “Lux Aurumque” and “Variations on an American Hymn Tune,” which was “How Firm a Foundation.”

A challenge when piecing together the program was finding a balance. Since the ensemble consists of both majors and non-majors in music, non-majors do not have hours to dedicate for practice as music majors do, Ordaz explained. 

“[So I was] finding pieces that balance the two, finding repertoire that challenges the performance majors, but at the same time doesn’t leave the non-majors in the dust,” Ordaz said.


Ordaz grew up in a household that loved music. 

“Music, for as long as I can remember, has been more than just a part of my life; it’s been my life, my family’s life,” Ordaz said. There was always music in his home, mainly from his mother teaching piano lessons.

Ordaz also said his father was involved in barbershop harmony, a style of a cappella. 

“Just growing up playing piano, then eventually playing with drums and percussion, always performing and playing at church … it’s just always been something my family did. It was our family identity,” Ordaz said.

Later in his life, Ordaz began to see the connection between music and God. 

“As I got older, it kind of hit me more and more how God is revealed through music, and how he’s given me and so many others a gift to really connect with it on a deeper level,” Ordaz said. “I am able to connect closer with God through music, and just through the beauty it creates. All the characteristics we can express through music [can be] directly linked with God and creation and sharing with students about how we are co-creators with him … [we are] doing kingdom work here by bringing beauty into the world through music.”

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