Wind Quintet Explores American Plight in UMD Performance

Edith Billups | 2/25/2009, 12:12 p.m.

As a toddler growing up in Louisville, Ky., Valerie Coleman, founder of the Imani Winds ensemble, used to pick up tree sticks on the ground and pretend she was playing a flute. When she reached age 11, Coleman began playing the instrument in fifth grade and within three years had written three symphonies.

€I loved the flute so much that my mother never had to make me practice,€ said the New York resident. €Although I had started playing the flute somewhat late, I made up for lost time.€

That love for the flute would turn into a life-long love affair, and now Coleman, 38, is one of the most respected classical flutists in the country. With Imani Winds (the name means faith in Swahili), which she founded in 1997, Coleman travels the world with four other musicians who will perform in concert on Fri., Feb. 27 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Composed of Coleman and Toyin Spellman€"Diaz (oboe); Mariam Adams (clarinet); Jeff Scott (French horn); and Monica Ellis (bassoon), Imani Winds has set the classical world ablaze by enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire with a combination of European, American, African and Latin American music.

For its Feb. 27 program, the group will play compositions and arrangements by Coleman and Scott, including Scott€s €Titilayo,€a collection of sounds and rhythms associated with the Yoruba culture, and Coleman€s €speech and canzone,€ one of the few works for wind quintets that incorporates electronic music. The work identifies the struggle for equality, justice and labor/voting rights in key movements of American history.

According to Coleman, the program is the continuation of a year-long residency program that the group started at the university last September. As part of the residency, the group will work with the university€s Chamber Music Connections program that brings undergraduate ensembles to local elementary schools for performances, presentations and discussions.

For Coleman, the collaboration is satisfying because budget cuts in school programs have eliminated money for music programs over the years.
€I was blessed to have had a great middle school band teacher who had ear training tests for us every single day. He would play a scale and then ask us to write what note he had played,€ Coleman said. €It helps to develop the inner ear and we learned how to write music. That is how music should be taught. If a child is dreaming of writing a symphony, he can write down what he is imaging because he is given the tools.€

Coleman said it is disheartening to travel to many inner city schools and find students who are interested in music, but are without instruments because of funding.

€On the other hand, cities like New York really put money into the arts. Julliard has a Saturday program geared just for African American and Hispanic students,€ she said.

At the Feb. 27 program, the group will perform Igo Stravinsky€s €Instrumental Miniatures€ and Scott€s arrangement of Astor Piazzolla€s €Libertango€ with members of the university€s Wind Orchestra.

€The Stravinsky piece is one that we had never played, and it was a treasure find for us,€ Coleman said. €The level of playing by the students here at the University of Maryland is very high, so I think we will be learning some things from them.€

The Feb. 27 performance will be at 8 p.m. in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center€s Gildenhorn Recital Hall.

For tickets, visit www.claricesmithcenter.umd.edu or call 301 405-2787.