From concept to concert hall

KU Wind Ensemble students

The KU Wind Ensemble, which has a deep commitment to performing new music, has 68 members. Here are brief profiles of a few of them.


Name: Philip Kaul

Year: Freshman in music education (tenor saxophone)

Hometown: DeSoto, Kan.

Career aspirations: Teach instrumental music in public schools


"My solo part is not particularly challenging from a strictly notes-and-rhythm standpoint. But it's so exposed that it presents a lot of challenges in making sure all the intonation is right on and adding some expression to a line that doesn't naturally have any rise and fall."

"I studied with the current professor for a couple of years in high school so I knew I had a decent chance of getting in the Wind Ensemble, but I didn’t know for sure as there are a lot of really good performers. I'm pretty lucky to have gotten this spot."

"As wind ensemble players, we typically default to avoiding the edge. We try to get a clean, precise sound — not rough around the edges at all. So then when Mohammed says, "Stop doing that," then you just let it go and you add a little edge to it to get that feeling."


Name: Muriel Hague

Year: Junior in music education (horn)

Hometown: Overland Park, Kan.

Career aspirations: Teach band or general music at a middle school or high school

"Intonation is a really big deal in this piece of music, especially since it’s an interesting ensemble. There are a lot of French horns, a lot of all brass, so balancing out the whole ensemble is a little trickier than normal."

"Having so many woodwinds creates kind of a gentle sound. I think it's very emotional — the woodwind parts especially. It's helped by the power of the brass, and I think it creates a very unique sound."

"It’s always great to see a piece of music come to life. You take a piece that you've never heard, and you start playing it. You like it and then as you get more into the rehearsal cycle, it starts meaning more and more to you. By the time the cycle is over, you have a real intimate connection with the music."


Name: Albert Miller

Year: Second-year doctoral student in musical arts (tuba/euphonium performance)

Hometown: Columbus, Ind.

Career aspirations: Teach and perform music


"The symphony is physically demanding in that a lot of it is very loud. Your jaw starts to ache, and your cheeks start to go. It’s pretty difficult, but it’s fun."

"I think the fact that the KU Wind Ensemble gets to set the bar for how this symphony is played in the future by other bands is really good for the university. It’s up to us to set the bar as high as we can."

"When I came to KU one thing that I noticed was that the Wind Ensemble is anything but boring."


Name: Peter Walker

Year: Second-year doctoral student in musical arts (oboe performance)

Hometown: Terre Haute, Ind.

Career aspirations: Play in an orchestra and teach at a university


"In the fourth movement of the symphony, it's about remembering what happened: “We will prevail. We will get over this tragedy.” I hear that when we rehearse the music."

"I get to play in Carnegie Hall. Not many people get to say that, so I really want to be as prepared as possible. It will be as perfect as I can make it."

"We have a lot of music from hundreds of years in orchestras, chamber music, and solo music, but you don't see the process as often. You don't get to experience it. So something that's been rewarding is to not only to have observed the process but to be a part of it."


Name: Jānis Porietis

Year: Third-year doctoral student in musical arts (trumpet performance)

Hometown: Riga, Latvia

Career aspirations: Perform in the Latvian orchestra and teach


"Mohammed mixes the Western and Middle Eastern music and intonations. I kind of try to imagine what he was feeling when he wrote it and put my heart and soul into it."

"After the Carnegie Hall concert, I hope that the feedback we get from the people who were directly involved in the 9/11 tragedy will be positive. It will be interesting to see and hear what they thought of the symphony."

"This is not just going to be some concert where we play music. All respects to Mozart and Beethoven, but everyone has heard that before. This is going to be the world premiere — something special written for us that we give to New York."


Name: Madelyn Moore

Year: Second-year doctoral student in musical arts (clarinet performance)

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Career aspirations: become a college professor


"I think what Mohammed is trying to do is convey a message about how our country feels right now, how our country has felt for the last 12 years, and how things have changed. We're getting to express not only his emotions, but also the broader mood and tone of the country."

"Giving this type of message in this city where it happened is an amazing experience to absorb as a person and also as a musician. That’s not an opportunity that comes around very often."

"The biggest joy for me is going from the very first reading — where it was so loud and so many people — and just watching the music change. And getting to work with a composer of Mohammed's level and see his work process and his thought process and how he alters things and responds to what he hears — it's a really special experience to see that evolve."

Katie McKeirnan

Name: Katie McKeirnan

Year: Sophomore

Major: Clarinet performance

Hometown: DeSoto, KS

Instrument: E flat and B flat clarinets

Career aspirations: Pursue a graduate degree, become a professor, and perform


  • "I really enjoy working with Dr. Popeil. I think he’s fantastic. I enjoy rehearsals because he’s typically very positive so there’s a good mix of that constructive criticism that makes the group get better."                         
  • "I think it (the symphony) should get quite a strong emotional response out of the audience. I think that from the listener’s point of view, they have sort of that similar experience of a gut-wrenching feeling that something terrible has just happened (9/11).”
  • "I think my first reaction was, “Wow, Mohammed Fairouz is in Kansas, in Lawrence, in the same room as me!” I think his music is really cool and so to be able to play some of his music is a really great opportunity."


Michael SolomonName: Michael Solomon

Year: Freshman

Major: Music education

Hometown: Boone, IA

Instrument: trumpet

Career aspirations: Either teach in a public school or attend graduate school


  • "I hope that they (listeners) get the same feel we do, as far as it’s a symphony mourning 9/11 but also moving on and moving past it. That’s one of the things Mohammed talked about, a lot of people have written pieces mourning 9/11 and about the sad parts. This is one that goes farther than 9/11 and talks about things afterwards, and I think that’s the biggest part of his piece is different from everyone else’s, that he considers the part after it and I think that’s what they should take away from it too."
  • "It’s really been amazing, going from high school to the top ensemble at KU. I remember the first piece we played in wind ensemble it was just amazing hearing all the great people around you and that’s kind of motivated me into these auditions where I want to be apart of that again so I’ve worked really hard at trying to make it again. "
  • "Tonality wise, it’s really different, so some of the trumpet parts really push you as far as that, you know it’s not things you’re used to hearing or playing. "


Emily StrachanName: Emily Strachan

Year: Sophomore

Major: Percussion performance

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Instrument: percussion

Career aspirations: Attend graduate school for percussion with emphasis on percussion chamber music


  • "When it (9/11) happened I was really little so I don’t remember much, but playing this and realizing what really happened, what people felt, what people had to go through and do, and sacrifice and all the losses, you feel that when you play and hear the piece."
  • "It’s a dream come true for every musician. You practice, practice, practice, and then being able to play at that venue for this type of project it’s really meaningful and it really pays off. "
  • "I’ve never been prouder to be a Jayhawk" 


Mai TadokoroName: Mai Tadokoro

Year: 2nd year doctoral student (Doctor of Musical Arts)

Major: Percussion

Hometown: Nara, Japan

Instrument: Principal - percussion

Career aspirations: Teach percussion


  • "I play the woodblock and claves part that keeps on ticking. That was so hard to play because it’s so minimalistic and so simple, but it’s really heavy. It starts the beginning of the piece and keeps going throughout and it’s just playing that simple rhythm that makes me think of those instants and it’s just recalling everything while it’s happening. To me it’s the simplest part, but it’s the most difficult part to play."
  • "I can definitely use this experience to encourage my (future) students and also to tell them how wonderful it was. "
  • "I think that we have a lot of ongoing energy. We are really excited about making this happen."  

KU Wind Ensemble Documentary KCPT 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11, 2014

New York Times review

"The ensemble, conducted by Paul W. Popiel, performed with polish, assurance and copious spirit, eliciting a rousing ovation..." Full review

KU Wind Ensemble releases 5th CD on Naxos Label

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