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Western Symphony Orchestra to perform ‘E.T.’ score live alongside film screening

Performance is set for Feb. 25 in the Performing Arts Center

Conductor Ryan Dudenbostel raises his arms and waves his baton during a Western Symphony Orchestra rehearsal for their performance of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. // Photo by Briana Tuvey

Western Washington University’s symphony orchestra will perform live alongside a screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” on Saturday, Feb. 25. 

A large screen will play the film above the musicians while they match the visual elements with their instruments. 

The performance will be located in the Performing Arts Center and tickets can be purchased online with prices ranging from $25-$50. For tickets in the $25-$30 range, Western students can receive a 50% discount.

The music, composed by John Williams, won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1982 along with a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media a year later.

Taking on a performance like this requires more than just learning the music for the orchestra members — there is very little room for error. 

“There's really no flexibility in the tempo and how fast or slow we go,” said Ryan Dudenbostel,  the symphony’s conductor and director of orchestral studies at Western. “The movie won't wait."

E.T. symphony

The Western Symphony Orchestra sits in the concert hall of the Performing Arts Center for a rehearsal on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. // Photo by Briana Tuvey

This added challenge is not something the performers have been shying away from. 

“There has never been a question of whether or not we can pull this off. We have all stepped up to be well-prepared for every rehearsal,” said Anya Petroff-Howarth, a fourth-year student at Western who plays violin.

This extra dimension has meant the group needed to recruit additional technical support in order to keep the show running smoothly. 

Included in this support crew are a technical director, projectionist and sound engineer, Dudenbostel said. 

“It's a big event and much bigger than what we usually do. But it's the kind of thing that's just so cool, we had to do it,” Dudenbostel said. 

The symphony orchestra performs five or six times a year, which is an opportunity to expose the students to the public and help them grow as musicians, Dudenbostel said. 

E.T. symphony

A member of the Western Symphony Orchestra plays the chimes during a rehearsal on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. // Photo by Briana Tuvey

“Students learn how to be expressive in front of large groups of people. This is a skill that can help to generate opportunities in all sectors of post-college life,” said Christopher Bianco,  interim dean for Western’s College of Fine and Performing Arts. 

Learning to share music with an audience is just as important as learning the music, Bianco said.

“We're not just learning how to engage music, we're learning how to share music, which is key to the craft,” Dudenbostel said. 

The thrill of performing doesn’t have to be scary. It’s an experience that can be exciting for the musicians. 

“It's a thrill that's hard to accurately describe. It's the culmination of diligent preparation, it's the release of a ball of anxiety, it's everything in between,” said Cameron Nielson, the orchestra manager, trumpet player and third-year student at Western. 

E.T. symphony

A poster advertising the Western Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” shows details of the performance on the door of the Performing Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. // Photo by Briana Tuvey

Many of the orchestra’s members are excited to be able to share some of their favorite music with the community. 

“We get the chance to really represent classical music at a high level and expose people to what live music sounds like,” said Zachary Murdzia, a third-year student and principal oboist. 

“It's a gift to our community to be able to bring something like this — a rare experience like this — to Bellingham,” Dudenbostel said. 

Proceeds from the performance go toward covering the cost of the show as well as funding a trip for the orchestra to go on tour in Spain at the end of June, Murdzia said. 

Donations for this trip can also be made online to their VikingFunder.

Miles Tennant

Miles Tennant (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year planning to major in the news/editorial path of the journalism department. When not reporting, he enjoys playing soccer and spending time in the gym. 

You can contact him

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