WindSync first visited Jackson Hole in winter 2012, just a few years after the wind quintet formed in Houston in 2009, to participate in the Grand Teton Music Festival’s winter concert series.
It returned that summer for a four-week “Music in Nature” residency, and the following year spent six weeks playing all over Jackson Hole — in Grand Teton National Park, at Teton County Library, outside the Center for the Arts and at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
“Our time there and our residencies there have been a huge part of WindSync, especially in our first years,” said Anni Hochhalter, the group’s horn player. “It was a great time to spend together, honing the skills and crafts we’ve used in the last 10 years. … It’s our favorite place on Earth.”
Jackson Hole is set to welcome its wind quintet back to the Tetons this week for several events and an opportunity to see how it has grown and matured and thrived out in the big world.
Some things have changed — Hochhalter and flautist Garrett Hudson are the only remaining original members, though oboist Emily Tsai, bassoonist Kara LaMoure and clarinetist Julian Hernandez have each been with the group for at least four years. But the group’s engaging, interactive approach to music making has largely stayed the same, in particular its educational programs aimed at young music fans.
The group’s theatrical approach to certain works is still a part of it, Hochhalter said. That will be on display when WindSync breaks out its masks and simple props to present its quintet version of Sergei Prokofiev’s musical fairy tale, “Peter and the Wolf,” at the Alta branch of the Teton County Library, the Jackson branch and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
The band also mostly performs everything from memory standing up, rather than half hidden behind music stands, which enhances the freedom of interaction between the members and adds to their presence on stage for the audience.
Founded in Houston shortly after all five had earned their music degrees from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, WindSync’s focus from the start has been melding world-class music making with education. In 2012 it organized as a nonprofit to provide an organization to support its work with children, communities and families, and its work with new composers.
The fun of a WindSync event can belie the seriousness of the musicianship, but its recent recognition by the Concert Artists Guild and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association’s competitions are testimony to the quintet’s lofty artistic achievement. Besides Jackson Hole and Houston, which the group still calls its headquarters, WindSync has enlivened the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and many other public spaces, as well as musical venues.
“Oh, we’ve been everywhere,” Hochhalter said the group’s peregrinations over the past decade. “We’ve to been to Juneau and Anchorage, Alaska, visited Vancouver and Seattle, have performances in New York. … We did these crazy 30-city tours two separate years in the Midwest.”
In addition to traditional repertoire for the standard quintet of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn, and arrangements of works for other ensembles (“Peter and the Wolf” was written for orchestra), WindSync continues to commission new work, this year playing premieres of work by Ivan Trevino, John Steinmetz and Marc Mellits.
“That has been a substantial part of our programming,” said Hochhalter. On Tuesday, in fact, the group performed Mellits’ “Apollo.”
“We love his writing for winds,” Hochhalter said. “A little more than year ago we approached him and asked if he’d write a piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. We premiered it in February at Ravinia and he was there. We love how the piece turned out.”
For WindSync groupies who missed that Grand Teton Music Festival chamber music performance, there are plenty of other opportunities to catch the group.
This week will first see a busy few days for WindSync at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
At 11 a.m. today and Thursday, it will perform a tribute to jazz leader Herb Alpert in front of his Spirit Totems on the museum’s Sculpture Trail and a “Celebration of Latin Music” for the “Somos de Aqui: The Enduring Wildlife of Puerto Rico” exhibit in the Wapiti Gallery. The quintet will also provide the musical portion of this month’s Mix’d Media event starting at 6 p.m. today on the Museum Terrace and, at 10:30 a.m. Friday, WindSync will present “Peter and the Wolf” in the museum’s Sullivan Hall.
For the Grand Teton Music Festival’s Hartley Family Concert Series, WindSync will perform “Peter and the Wolf” twice: at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Alta Branch of Teton County Library, and at noon Monday at the Jackson library.
WindSync’s performances throughout the week are free, although the Music Festival events require tickets. Call 733-1128 or visit GTMF.org for information. ￼