Chamber Orchestra Goes Symphonic


Sean Lee

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


During my eight years of preforming in various orchestras, symphonies and ensembles, I’ve played under a good number of conductors.

Any musician will tell you that a lot of the “rehearsal experience” will depend on the conductor, whose job is to schedule rehearsals, plan repertoire and keep everything in the orchestra from falling apart.

A big part of a wholesome conducting experience is the manner of which the conductor conducts himself.

Confused yet? Think of the last time you had a very dry professor who reads right from the book. Then think of an excitable professor who teaches the same subject. You’ll learn a lot more from the excited one, right?

Same concept.

“Take it easy on the chipotle sauce,” Professor Alejandro Drago says to a violinist during a chamber orchestra rehearsal. “If you keep pushing [the tempo] things will start to pile up.”

As director of strings at UND, Dr. Drago’s normal gig is conducting the UND chamber orchestra. Preforming several concerts during the semester, the ensemble consists of around 20 musicians preforming a variety of classical, baroque and contemporary pieces on string instruments.

Drago wanted a little extra for the chamber orchestra’s most recent performance. That’s why he summoned the help of several brass and woodwind musicians, as well as a percussionist to transform the chamber orchestra to a symphonic orchestra, sending excitement throughout the UND music community.

“It’s a process of exploration,” Dr. Drago said. “Music puts your brain into a very high level of functionality, it’s relating sound to pictures that don’t even exist.”

As a musician, the most fun I’ve ever had at in any rehearsal was during a “Drago rehearsal.” Not only is he a musical genius, he’s funny and very quick-witted. A master of ten languages, he often fires off snarky jokes in different dialects - often to prove a point.

“Music has its own languages,” Drago said. “The tango, for example, and classical music are not that far apart from each other, still they still have very distinct characteristics - they are two different ‘languages’ of music. If humans can be multi-lingual, they can be multi-musical.”

Last Tuesday, the symphonic orchestra preformed a set of music that took the listener on a journey through time. The Hebrides by Mendelssohn opened the concert with a dramatic fanfare.

Dr. Drago took the lead and played solo violin in Max Bruch’s violin concerto in G, a sweet yet lyrical work for a small orchestra.

Beethoven's first symphony ended the night. A truly classical piece that gave the string section a chance to shine.

April 26 will be the UND chamber orchestra’s last performance and will feature an all-Norwegian program. “I encourage everyone to attend music events at UND,” Dr. Drago said. “I’m confidant that you will gather an enormous amount of information and develop an appreciation for fine music.”