Founding and Tragedy
In 1996, Rick Modica '99 began a mission to bring a wind ensemble to Princeton. He worked for a year and formed the Princeton University Wind Ensemble. Tragically however, he was killed in a car accident while on Spring Break in 1997. The ensemble restarted the following year and prepared a concert that spring in the University Chapel in Rick's memory. Dr. Anthony Biancosino, director of Princeton High School bands, conducted the ensemble during that premiere concert. In the spring of 1998, the ensemble included 20 students from Princeton University and about 20 students from Princeton High School.
Growth and Progression
The ensemble began the 1998-99 year under the direction of a new conductor, Paul Andrew Balog. With Princeton University students accounting for the full membership, over 50 students had joined the ensemble by winter. The ensemble performed its first ever concert in Richardson Auditorium on April 9, 1999 and quickly attained much attention as one of the fastest growing musical groups on campus.
The next year, the ensemble enjoyed a full complement of musicians and performed two concerts. Its outdoor spring concert on Woodrow Wilson Plaza, entitled "Concert Under the Stars," was fantastically successful with over 600 people in attendance and has since become an annual tradition.
The ensemble received a much-needed boost in the 2000-01 academic year when it welcomed a new conductor, Bruce Yurko. Concerts featured Johan de Meij's The Lord of the Rings and the tradition of performing The Star Wars Trilogy by John Williams began this year as well. The following year, the group tackled Pictures at an Exhibition and, in the wake of September 11th, performed American Elegy by Frank Ticheli.
In the following years, PUWE continued to explore and perform a wide variety of music under Yurko’s direction including the works of Bernstein, Holst, and Persichetti. When Yurko stepped down from the podium in 2004 to devote time to other endeavors, Mr. Andrew Stachow generously offered his time and attention as interim conductor and allowed the group to experience another year of exciting material by composers such as Giannini, Khachaturian, and Shostakovich.
In 2005, the ensemble welcomed Mr. Robert Hankle, a professional trombonist who had achieved great success as a high school band director after discovering a love of teaching. After successfully leading the ensemble for 4 years, Hankle resigned for personal reasons at the end of the 2008-09 season.
This year PUWE is proud to welcome back Philadelphia Pops trumpet player Robert Gravener to the helm. Gravener's inaugaral season, 2009-10, was marked by a series of firsts for PUWE beginning with a highly successful first off-campus performance at the 2nd annual "Columbia Festival of Winds" at Columbia University, making headlines with the debut performance of the highly anticipated original composition "The Ninth Wave" by Princeton's very own Nicholas DiBerardino '11 and culminating in PUWE's first appearance at Princeton Reunions. Gravener brings superior musicianship and over 25 years of teaching experience to PUWE and looks forward to breaking new ground with the ensemble by building upon a very successful first year.
PUWE is an excellent musical outlet for all woodwind, brass, and percussion players at Princeton University. Students retain much control of the group and their leadership permits them to choose the direction of the ensemble, making it an ideal group for dedicated instrumentalists.