Graduating with a Musical Flourish

by Kelly Clisham

Tyler Dragon, of Shavertown, Pennsylvania, will graduate from Wilkes with a double major in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, but he didn’t spend all of his time in the lab. His passion for percussion earned him a spot in the 75th Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Band, which performed this spring at Commonwealth University at Mansfield.  

Dragon chose to be a percussionist in the fifth grade because of the variety of instruments available, including timpani, marimba, snare drum, bass drum and xylophone. He enjoys the life-long learning aspect of performing, taking what he started in middle school and continuing to grow with input from peers and conductors.

Dragon was honored to be chosen for Intercollegiate Band. For him, the highlight of the weekend was meeting and performing with students from colleges and universities across the state.

Phil Simon, director of bands at Wilkes, notes that Dragon is the type of student who leads and mentors other students by example. “He spent countless hours practicing his parts for Intercollegiate Band so that he was ready to play them flawlessly,” says Simon.  “He served as an example of leadership and dedication to our other members of the band and to the members of his section.” 

After graduation, Dragon will take his engineering skills to Pulverman, a metal manufacturing firm in Dallas, Pennsylvania. But no doubt he’ll still keep the beat. “Music is an important part of my life as it serves as a way to get away from the stresses of everyday life,” says Dragon.”

In addition to Dragon, four other Wilkes students were selected for the prestigious performance opportunity and traveled to Mansfield along with Simon.

Pharmacy/Spanish double major John Hannaway first picked up a trumpet in fifth grade. Soon after, he started experimenting with the piano, flute, alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, French horn, percussion and organ. When he had the chance to borrow an oboe/English horn from his high school, Hannaway knew he found his musical calling.

Hannaway enjoys the challenge of performing complex pieces at the collegiate level, as well as the ability of music to create meaningful connections with composers, conductors, musicians and audience members.

The senior’s selection to the Intercollegiate Band was an encore of sorts as he previously performed with the organization during his freshman year. He was also undergoing chemotherapy at the time. “Music has brought me out of some of my darkest moments,” says Hannaway. “Having music by my side during that time helped me remain optimistic during an otherwise rough part of my life.”

Morganne Seitz, a junior pharmacy major from York, Pennsylvania, played violin for six years before switching to string bass. When Seitz was searching for a college, she knew it had to have both pharmacy and music programs. “Being able to perform at the college level was a deal-breaker for me and being able to perform at this capacity has changed me as a person and a student.” she says.  

For Seitz, music is not just a creative outlet, but a chance to form close relationships with others. She met some of her best friends, her boyfriend and influential mentors through her musical endeavors.

Seitz enjoyed the reward of the final Intercollegiate Band performance, taking the stage and having the hard work pay off after months of practice. She also enjoyed representing the University for the second year in a row.  “It is always an honor to be selected for these types of ensembles and to be able to represent Wilkes at these events. 

Stephen Beck, a junior middle-level education major from Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, started playing piano when he was five years old. During a fourth-grade assembly, he was drawn to the French Horn.

Performing at the collegiate level gives Beck the opportunity to pursue two of his passions: making music and influencing the lives of young people through teaching. When he’s not performing, he serves as an assistant scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America and enjoys spending time outdoors, being with family and watching old cartoons.

Though the Intercollegiate Band experience only lasted for a weekend, music will always be a part of Beck’s life. “If I’m not playing music, I’m hearing tunes in my head, he says. “I just feel like I need music to make my life complete.”

Molly Rodino, a first-year early childhood/elementary education major from Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, started her musical career on the clarinet, though she’s also proficient on alto saxophone.

Rodino was proud to represent Wilkes as one of the few freshmen in the state chosen for Intercollegiate Band. She particularly enjoyed performing two world premiere pieces: “Sea of Mountains” by Matthew Jackfert and “Lifted” by Adam Brennan. “Both had inspiring messages in the music itself, giving me chills each time we played the pieces,” she says.

When she’s not on campus, Rodino can be found capturing local scenery and sunsets with her camera or cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. But music is her main escape. “I know playing makes me happy, so I hope that performances I’m a part of can make others happy and take away some of the stress of day-to-day life.

Simon is proud of his students’ representation alongside musicians from the top schools in the state, and their achievements have not gone unnoticed by administrators here on campus.

“We have a long tradition of sending students to represent Wilkes in this concert, and are so happy for these students who have earned this honor,” says Paul Riggs, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It is an important source of pride for the performing arts program at Wilkes and for the university as a whole.”

“Music and the performing arts are a vital and vibrant part of our campus community,” says President Greg Cant. “Thanks and congratulations to these students and Dr. Phil Simon who shared their talents and represented Wilkes so well at the state level.”

photo of the intercollegiate band ensemble at Mansfield

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