Summer 2014

These students are so self-composed

In Explorchestra, they write the songs (and play them, too)

Feature Image
Jonathan Cohen
Explorchestra performs at events and gives a concert each semester. Most of the members are not music majors.

If Explorchestra were a reality television show, the woodwinds would be plotting behind the backs of the brass. The composers would be shredding each other’s scores and the triangle player would be selling his printing quota to the highest bidder.

Instead, its musicians are tolerant of all persuasions — violists, trumpeters, even the guy who plays the offbeat theremin. Those who are classically trained willingly play pop and jazz, and everyone shows up for practice on time.
Explorchestra is a group of about 35 student instrumentalists and vocalists who perform music composed solely by its members. Only three are music majors.

“We do a new set of music every semester,” says singer Audrey Russo, a junior. “It provides an incentive for new people to write something to keep our sound fresh.”

There are officers, but no official conductor. The person holding the baton is likely the person who wrote the music.

“If you don’t like your part, if it’s too difficult or it’s too boring, the guy who wrote it is sitting right next to you, so you can ask him to change it,” says Daniel Romberger ’14, president, composer and theremin player.

“We have people who are music majors who write pieces with skills they learn in music classes,” Russo says. “One of our most prolific composers isn’t a music major, doesn’t know theory. He uses Garage Band software and Finale software to compose pieces and see where the harmonies fit. So we have classical pieces, rock, pop, jazz. Even though the name is Explorchestra, which sounds like orchestra, it’s not that at all. We dabble in all types.”

One challenge is printing all that music. “A lot of times we have to use our own printing quota,” Russo says, explaining that each Binghamton student is allotted $2.25 a week. That’s 45 pages at 5 cents a page.

“You know how people live paycheck to paycheck? I kind of live printing quota to printing quota,” Romberger says.

He’ll get used to it. The triple major in music, actuarial science and economics will return this fall to pursue his master’s in music. “Grad school in music would not have happened if not for Explorchestra. The music faculty are fantastic and played a huge role in shaping my decision,” he says.