On an undeniably STEM-oriented campus, the AMC Orchestra offers a unique opportunity for artistic release. The group is part of the ‘Music and Medicine Initiative’ in the University of Colorado Center for Bioethics and Humanities and, as of fall semester, has a new director, Jeremy D. Cuebas.
The orchestra is a blend of students, faculty and staff from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Aurora community, all with one common interest –music. Although the members have musical backgrounds, their levels of experience vary greatly.
For more information
The AMC Orchestra is open to all musicians at CU Anschutz and community members. No auditions are required, and there are places for musicians of all abilities. Please contact AMCOrchestra@gmail.com for more information on joining the orchestra or to be added to the email list.
“We’re a ‘come as you are’ group,” said Lauren Habenicht, DVM, the faculty advisor to the AMC Orchestra. “We have people who have played semiprofessionally, and we have people who haven’t picked up their instruments in years but want to start again.”
“I enjoy improving my musical technique and hearing our pieces take form in the ensemble,” said Duncan Davis-Hall, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering.
‘An opportunity to connect’
After a tough 2020, the orchestra is on the rebound and seeing an influx of participants, including students from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Jeremy D. Cuebas is the new director of the AMC Orchestra.
“We've had three rehearsals so far this year,” said Cuebas, who plays the viola. “I think we've clicked really quickly. I get so excited each Thursday, knowing that I can continue to make great music with the orchestra, meet new friends, and eventually build up to a concert to share with the community.”
The orchestra provides a chance to practice, while connecting colleagues across campus who may not interact otherwise.
“It provides a way to play with other passionate musicians and a chance to share that music with the rest of the campus,” said Davis-Hall. “Anybody who wants to experience music can do that through our performances, and that adds a uniquely artistic element to our campus culture.”
“For me, playing in an ensemble, you’re working creatively with others, and it’s a mix of people that I don’t get to work with in any other setting,” said Habenicht, who plays the piccolo and flute. “It’s a special way to establish connections across the campus, being able to work collaboratively and having this different form of communications. The feeling of all the sound washing over you, it’s so much bigger than just practicing in your living room.”
“I've met so many wonderful people through the orchestra, and it's shown me how valuable music can be,” said Davis-Hall. “My instrument is a creative outlet, and the orchestra is a collaborative musical project.”
‘Overcoming COVID-19 challenges’
Historically, orchestra practice has culminated in two performances – one in fall semester and another in spring. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has disrupted in-person performances.
The AMC Orchestra practices outside Fulginiti Pavilion on a recent evening.
“We don't have the details on the concert yet since we're still adjusting to COVID regulations,” said Cuebas. “But just the fact that we can meet in person and make music live is fantastic. We've all missed it!”
“As you can imagine, the past two years have been difficult,” said Habenicht. “Working through the logistics was a learning experience. What technology could help us practice or perform? There was a lot of trial and error. Sound and video lag (online) really made it very hard to play together as an ensemble.”
In light of this and within parameters set by the university, the musicians have begun practicing outdoors together as an ensemble.
“While we are uncertain about how the performances will go, we are very excited to play together once again,” said Habenicht. “We are looking forward to this semester, especially with the addition of our new director.”