The musically endowed Wind Ensemble of Christopher Newport University (CNU) wouldn’t exist without Dr. Mark U. Reimer, Distinguished Professor in Wind Studies and George and Mary Torggler Director and Professor in Music. At CNU, Reimer’s influence on the growth of the campus spans a stunning 31 years, in which the renaissance of the university’s music program blossomed out of Christopher Newport College, as Reimer himself noted. He began working at the academic institution in 1992.
“Christopher Newport was my first college job. My task was to start an instrumental program here,” he says. Within about a month’s time, he explains, he was asked to be director of music, “and the rest is history!” He continued when Paul Trible became president of the university, and “things moved even faster,” which included the introduction of CNU’s marching band and overseas opportunities for students.
Now, Reimer serves as conductor of CNU’s Wind Ensemble he remembers creating in the school’s younger years. During the spring of 2023, the group traveled to Córdoba in Argentina, first passing through Panama. Reimer explains that the trip consisted of 41 travelers, including students, faculty and guest musicians. Conductor Luis Pérez, Dr. Rachel Holland (soprano) and Stephen McWithey (euphonium) were among them as well.
“Overseas, there’s a real appeal to students, and I really believe in that mission. I am committed to that mission of experiential learning,” Reimer says.
This trip was the first time members of CNU’s music department and programs had traveled to Argentina, but throughout the years, students under that umbrella visited other countries and regions to perform.. Reimer named a few examples where the musicians previously appeared, including the Middle East, Cypress, Greece, Germany, Italy and France.
In Argentina, the musicians performed two different shows throughout the week. They also enjoyed sightseeing and exploration in their new surroundings before returning to the U.S. Throughout each program, audiences enjoyed their musical selections, including Three American gospel songs, the “Cheerio March” and music from “Hello, Dolly.”
The CNU Wind Ensemble is currently composed of more than three dozen dedicated student musicians, each of whom plays either a wind or percussion instrument.
According to a pamphlet that encapsulated the group’s adventures in Argentina, “The Wind Ensemble interacts with guest composers, conductors and soloists, continually raising performance standards through challenging repertoire and immersing students in cultures and performance practices from around the world.” Within the pamphlet, alongside the names of Wind Ensemble members and their instruments, the Applied Wind Ensemble faculty and Instrumental Ensemble directors are listed, obviously essential to its success.
Reimer is originally from small-town Iowa and noticed his love for music at a young age when he became drum major in marching band as an adolescent; during his undergraduate studies, he says he realized his dream to direct collegiate-level band. His success in music extends beyond his day-to-day teaching. To name a few of his accomplishments, Reimer established the International Symposia for Emerging Conductors and serves as a co-editor of the Journal of Performing Arts Leadership in Higher Education. He loves traveling on his own time as well, mentioning Germany. He says, “I don’t really make my life around a house,” a statement that absolutely sums up the experiences of the amazing musicians under his CNU Wind Ensemble.
“Our students get great jobs; they’re talented, compassionate, very engaged. I always say that leadership element of this really does trickle down to all the departments,” Reimer says. He also emphasized their collective ambition and other achievements and accolades outside of CNU’s music program.
TO THE POINT:
CNU Wind Ensemble
Address: Department of Music, Ferguson Center for the Arts A133, 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Dr. Mark U. Reimer