Saturday, March 08, 2014 2:43 PM
Courtesy photo. University of Maryland’s Gamer Symphony Orchestra will perform Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. in the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.
Published on: Wednesday, December 09, 2009
By Ron Stein, Special to The Sentinel
On a cool Thursday night in early December, just under 100 students congregate on the stage of the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel, most with instruments, some with just their vocal chords.
These students form UMD’s Gamer Symphony Orchestra, which is practicing for its upcoming winter concert Saturday.
GSO, the first instrumental organization at the collegiate level solely devoted to video game music, performs video game songs from two decades worth of video games including “Medal of Honor,” “Super Mario Bros. 2,” and “Civilization IV.”
“We are a real orchestra and we play video game music that we arrange ourselves,” said Steve O’Brien, a senior computer science major and vice president of GSO.
The orchestra consists of 95 members, including a 25-person chorus, which sings both on its own and as an accompaniment to the GSO instruments, according to a press release.
“GSO officially started in the fall of 2005 by Michelle Eng,” said Rob Garner, GSO president. “She was a member of an orchestra on campus and came up with the idea because she was really interested in video games and video game music.”
GSO was formed with hopes of making video game music a serious music genre, as well as bringing orchestral music to new and younger audiences, according to a press release.
“I really think that video game music is a beautiful genre in the sense that it covers all types of music: jazz, classical, light music, and more,” said sophomore music education and music performance major Kira Levitzky, who is one of the conductors of GSO.
The group has become increasingly popular among student musicians and there is now a waitlist to join. Students can join the group when there are open spots, as GSO doesn’t believe in auditions.
“We don’t do auditions because it would change the environment of GSO,” said Anna Costello, a sophomore psychology major and one of GSO’s conductors.
“It’s supposed to be more social and friendly and a lot of people enjoy that part so auditions would make it seem like we only want the best of the best musicians, which is what we don’t want.”
Students have different reasons for showing interest in GSO.
Sam Nassau, a sophomore English and Journalism major, is one of the trumpet players for GSO.
“I really love playing trumpet, but since I am not a music major I thought it would be hard to get into any of the bands here at school,” said Nassau. “With GSO, it’s more fun and relaxed than a university band would be.”
Kevin Hencke, a senior math major and tenor in GSO’s chorus, thinks there is more that makes the orchestra appealing than just his love for video games and video game music.
“What has really impressed me most is that the people in GSO are the nicest, most fun people in any student group I have encountered since I have been here,” said Hencke.
“Even if I didn’t like music or video games, I think it would be worthwhile to join this group because it’s just so much fun.”
In addition to playing music, GSO notes that educational outreach is an important part of their mission, and orchestra members have worked with local high schools in the area to promote video game songs and music in general.
Future plans for GSO include a number of regional performances at local schools and other venues.
GSO’s winter concert will take place Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. in the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.