By Tori Bachman-Johnson ‘12
It’s business as usual for the Tiger Symphonic Band this spring, as a senior soloist highlights the program for Thursday’s concert. What’s unusual this time around is the talent – a trilingual, drum-playing German.
Senior Taras Golditchuk steps into the spotlight with a djembe [hand drum] during the annual Spring Concert in the John L. Hill Chapel at 8 p.m. on April 23. The concert also features recently composed pieces by Hazo, Reed, Romeyn and Giroux, as well as two chamber works for horn quartet and flute quartet. Lauri Hensley, a senior from London, KY, has the honor of conducting Julie Giroux’s “A Time to Dance.”
Selected by Band Director Dr. Pete LaRue to perform as a soloist, Taras has proven his worthiness for this honor of the past four years. As a child in Germany, Taras had mandatory music classes from elementary school through high school in the Berlin suburb of Hennigsdorf. He also spent afternoons attending a music school to get private music lessons for different instruments. Additionally, “We had a lot of street fairs for music from all around the world, particularly in Berlin,” he said.
Though Taras started out playing classical guitar, he picked up the drums after the local music school took a group of students to Accra, Ghana for a month-long workshop on African drumming. “We would take drum lessons from locals in the morning and travel around the country on weekends and afternoons,” said Taras, who found the experience difficult at first.
“The local teachers, so called ‘Master Drummers,’ don’t know how to write down music. All their songs are passed on using their memory,” he said. “Hence, we were taught all the traditional songs by ear as well and had to memorize them – songs sometimes 10 minutes long with different parts. Our African teachers were perfectionists, they would not teach you more of the song unless you knew everything perfectly to that point. It was especially difficult because they emphasize different beats like the off-beat.”
Taras spent a total of three months in Ghana at these workshops (in 2001, 2002, and 2003), and said, “It was natural wanting to continue to drum after those trips.”
Taras’s international experiences continued when he decided to stay in Kentucky for college after spending his senior year in Frankfort. That year at Franklin County High School, he played in the marching, pep and jazz bands and competed in varsity soccer, swimming and track.
“I wanted to save some time by not finishing high school in Germany and go straight to college…and I thought it would be a great experience to continue my higher education in a different country,” he explained, adding that “Georgetown offered me a nice scholarship package to come which I couldn’t refuse at that time.”
During his time at Georgetown, Taras worked as an RD, served as the Investment Team Captain, and pledged Lambda Chi Alpha, all while working on his BA in Commerce, Language and Culture (a joint venture of business studies and language/cultural studies) and in Economics. He also landed a trade research internship at the Kentucky World Trade Center in 2007, and studied abroad with a French language immersion program in Montréal, Canada.
His extensive musical background and impressive academic achievements helped earn Taras the nickname MFG (My Favorite German) from Dr. LaRue, and it was only natural for the director to invite Taras to be the senior soloist for the Spring Concert. “When I first asked Taras, I knew he had some unusual talents and skills…an obviously interesting background – German – and also interesting background with djembe,” LaRue said, “but basically I wanted to feature someone like Taras – just a great example of what is finest about our Tiger Bands.”
“A Band Scholar is someone who is an exemplar of the Five-Fold Band Tenets – Academic Excellence, Musical Ability, Spiritual Values, Leadership Skills, and Commitment to the College,” LaRue explained. “A Band Scholar is someone who is well-rounded, interesting and interested, and a good campus citizen, being actively and successfully involved in a wide-range of campus events and activities.
“Taras simply is all of these things and more.” Taras Golditchuk, who made the Dean’s List every semester, will graduate summa cum laude and with a 3.98 GPA (that’s one B!).
When it came to finding a work for Taras and the band to perform, however, difficulties arose.
“Dr. LaRue was searching for a piece that had a djembe drum solo and band. Obviously, there is no such piece out there so we had to modify one a little,” Taras said. The result is “Amani – Song of Peace.” This piece, originally for four-part women’s choir, now includes instrumental parts for the band, singing in both French and Swahili, clapping, and chanting, all while featuring Taras on djembe.
In a sense, Taras sees this Spring Concert as his final musical performance. “I don’t think I will continue to play percussion after college,” he said, explaining that “percussion (drums) are instruments that basically need an accompanying instrument to go with it. “While I won’t necessarily go out and actively look for an ensemble to join, I am definitely open for different opportunities.”
Upon graduation, Taras plans to utilize his business and economics degree and trilingual skills – perhaps in the United States or even Germany. “Georgetown College gave me a strong academic background in a number of areas and I feel prepared for the global marketplace,” he said.
One thing is set – his wedding date (New Year’s Day 2010) with Megan O’Donnell ’08, a Kappa Delta from Shelbyville and the dynamo who coordinated Songfest 2006. Now a conference coordinator with LeadAmerica, a national youth leadership program, she is flying up from Florida to witness Taras’s moment in the band spotlight.
Thursday’s concert is likely any audience’s last chance to see Taras in what Dr. LaRue fondly calls “full German mode – it essentially means any time I need Taras to beat the ever-lasting 24^#*@$&$%*& out of something.”