Count It All Joy: University Wind Symphony’s music conveys the joy we have in Jesus Christ

Published by Amy Crawford 1 month ago on Fri, Apr 5, 2024 8:39 AM

The University Wind Symphony is Concordia Nebraska’s premier instrumental ensemble. Its repertoire is chosen from the entire spectrum of wind ensemble and concert band literature and also includes newly-composed and commissioned works. The auditioned group rehearses five hours a week and also has sectional rehearsals. The group tours regionally and nationally, and its performances have been featured on The Lutheran Hour radio broadcast.  


What is a wind symphony? 

The University Wind Symphony is conducted by Concordia Nebraska alumnus Robert D. Cody. Prior to Cody’s hire earlier this year, the Concordia University Wind Symphony was called the University Concert Band. In the past, the group was also referred to as the University Symphonic Band. As the university celebrates the opening of its new Borland Center for Music and Theatre and constantly seeks to provide matchless music education on its campus, the time was right for a renaming, said Cody. 

“Now that we have renamed the ensemble, there’s automatically a higher expectation level,” he said. The term ‘wind symphony’ is used by the top-tier performance groups in major cities and universities across the country. As we continue to expand and elevate music programming at Concordia, this new name just made sense.” 

The Concordia Wind Symphony usually has about 55 to 60 members, about 50 percent of whom are music majors. In addition to five hours per week of group rehearsal, most members also take private lessons to further their skills on their chosen, primary instrument. The group performs one home concert per semester and travels to perform at conferences, contests and other special opportunities.  The group also performs at the university’s renowned Christmas at Concordia event each December. The wind symphony tours domestically once per year and plans to tour internationally in the future. 

In the future, Cody envisions a multi-faceted program including a wind symphony, symphonic band and entry-level university band. 


About the director 

A Concordia Nebraska graduate, Cody serves as assistant professor of music. In addition to conducting the wind symphony, he also works with other instrumental ensembles on campus, cultivates and maintains relationships with public and private high school teachers, teaches select courses within the music education curriculum and teaches private lessons. 

Cody has a master’s degree in music education with conducting emphasis from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in K-12 music education from Concordia University, Nebraska. Prior to his current service at the university, he served as worship arts director for St. Lorenz Evangelical Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where he oversaw all instrumental and vocal music for worship, directed wind, string and brass players, coordinated worship schedules, arranged chapel musicians, taught middle school choir and more.  He also previously served as director of music at Living Word Lutheran High School in Jackson, Wisconsin, was a band conductor for the Lakeshore Symphonic Band in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, and served as a guest conductor for the Hartford City Band in Hartford, Wisconsin. He has offered private trumpet lessons to middle school and high school students for a number of years. 


About the music and the mission 

The music for this year’s Concordia Nebraska Wind Symphony tour centers on the theme of joy. The program includes a piece commissioned especially for the group: Bless The Lord, O My Soul by composer and church musician Benjamin M. Culli. The piece is inspired by Psalm 103 and created especially for the wind symphony’s inaugural season. It will be debuted on the group’s first tour stop - Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas - on April 11. 

“The whole program was chosen with the idea of joy in mind,” said Cody. “Joy in life. Joy in death. The hope that we have: joy eternal. This music leads through that cycle to a celebratory reflection of the heavenly chorus. In the wind symphony world, there is no text like you would find in a choral piece. While music without words allows us to have our own experience with that music, sometimes it makes it challenging for an audience member to contextualize it. We carefully choose music to convey a message: count it all joy.” 

“The first thing that brought me back to Concordia was the mission. All of our faculty members are providing these students what they need for service to the church and the world. In the study of music, there is a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of hard work. There are opportunities for leadership,” he added. “It is such a joy to watch students catch fire for what they want and like to do.  It takes passion and drive to make this work. We pour so much into our work every day. But these students go on to inspire others through their work and their artistry.” 


Music at Concordia Nebraska 

Music has been a part of student life at Concordia Nebraska since the university’s founding in 1894. Piano was taught to all students in those early days, and violin was also a required course for many years. Over time, organ, music theory and choral studies were added to the curriculum. Concordia Nebraska hired its first full time music professor – Karl Haase – in 1906, and he organized the school’s first band, which included the only four instruments available on campus: a B-flat cornet, an E-flat cornet, an alto saxophone and a snare drum. Today, Concordia Nebraska’s music groups include the University Wind Symphony, the University Orchestra, the University Band (which is also directed by Cody), brass and jazz ensembles, two handbell choirs, a variety of vocal ensembles and many student led groups including the Bulldog Pep Band and a variety of chamber ensembles and praise bands. 

Earlier this year, the university opened the 46,544 square foot Borland Center for Music and Theatre, an innovative space that includes 22 practice rooms, 13 teaching studios with professional sound-proofing, customizable rehearsal spaces, a 100-seat theater, a recital hall, a state-of-the-art recording studio, study areas and abundant floor-to-ceiling windows offering natural lighting.  A variety of music study and performance opportunities are available at the university for students majoring in church music, performance, music education or other areas of music and for those pursuing other paths of study. 


To God alone be the glory 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what instrument a student plays or which ensemble they are a member of, said Cody. That is the overarching reason he and his students come together: to study and create music that will bring glory to God.  That focus is brought to light at every rehearsal session and at every performance. 

“Working at this level, making this music, we’re bringing the composers and their work to life. With an advanced, talented group like this, there is an incredible propensity for expressive playing that is simply unmatched,” he said. “But most important of all is this: when you bring the message to life, the Gospel is there, and there is nothing better than that. I love music, but it’s a lesser product until it points to its Creator. Doing that together makes being a part of this group is being a part of something truly special.” 

Learn more about music education opportunities at Concordia Nebraska.