December 4, 2018

SEC Football Championship Weekend Highlights Performing Arts

Members of 2018 SEC Student Music Ensemble perform during SEC Legend's Dinner reception
Members of 2018 SEC Student Music Ensemble perform during SEC Legend's Dinner reception

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Seven SEC student musicians used the activities surrounding the 2018 SEC Football Championship Game to showcase their jazz and improvisational music prowess to thousands of SEC administrators, staff and fans as part of the third SEC Student Music Ensemble.

Under the direction of Dr. Michael Pendowski, Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Director of the Jazz Program at Auburn University, the group performed during the SEC Legends Dinner presented by AT&T and the SEC Pregame Hospitality Party.

“This is a rare opportunity for exceptional musicians to meet others from across the SEC with the same abilities and goals and to make connections that will have an impact throughout their careers,” said Pendowski. “It also places them in a truly professional situation where they are asked to create music with each other in a limited time frame. This is exactly what these performers will face in the professional music world.”

Members of the SEC ensemble included Trent Briden, Auburn University – Piano; Peter McCann, University of Florida – Tenor Saxophone; Hiram Rodriguez, Vanderbilt University – Trombone; Jim Shaw, Auburn University – Drums; Quentin Smith, University of Georgia – Bass; David Vest, University of Kentucky – Trumpet; and Neil Wegrzyn, University of Missouri – Guitar.

These students were selected by their universities to participate in the unique group, and they had two hours to rehearse before the first performance, which was during the SEC Legend’s Dinner reception.

“Playing in the SEC Student Music Ensemble was a truly memorable opportunity in my life,” said Smith. “It was really interesting to see what kinds of playing styles and interests my regional peers have, as well as to make some new contacts for the next time I might be in Nashville or Auburn. Overall, it was a delightful experience, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.”

The SEC Student Music Ensemble first performed during the 2015 SEC Symposium in Atlanta, and SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey asked that a group be invited to join in the festivities tied to the Conference’s football championship game, also in Atlanta.

“The performing arts are an important component of the educational experience, and we are pleased to provide a showcase for these students and the SEC universities they represent,” said Sankey. “The SEC is uniquely positioned to feature these talented young people, and the student music ensemble is another example of our commitment to higher education.”

Plans are already underway for the 2019 ensemble as Miles Osland, Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Saxophone at the University of Kentucky, has already agreed to direct, and universities have already started to identify students.