Shepherd School orchestra embarks on East Coast tour

Valentine’s Day is a special occasion for many people, and this year, it marked an extra-special occasion for Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, as members of the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra embarked on the school’s East Coast tour.

Shortly after 5 a.m., a crowd of more than 100 students and staff began to gather inside Alice Pratt Brown Hall, where United Airlines employees conducted security screenings for the orchestra’s chartered flight. Around 7 a.m., three buses transported the staff and orchestra members to the tarmac of George Bush Intercontinental Airport to board their flight to Washington Dulles International Airport.

The group arrived in D.C. in the early afternoon, and spent the evening relaxing in anticipation of their first tour performance Feb. 15 at Baltimore’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Larry Rachelff, the Walter Kris Hubert Professor of Orchestral Conducting, called the tour preparation by the staff, donors, faculty, administration and students “a really selfless project to represent this great music school.” He also acknowledged the many former students who contributed to the excellence of the Shepherd School.

Robert Yekovich, dean of the Shepherd School and the Elma Schneider Professor of Music, called the tour “a wonderful community-building experience.”

“We’ve had an uneventful trip so far,” he said. “Everyone’s spirits are really high, and we’re really looking forward to [the performance at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall] tomorrow night.”

Nina DeCesare, a senior double bass performance major originally from the Baltimore area, said participating in the Shepherd School’s first tour “feels pretty great.”

“It’s nice because I can see how far I’ve come since living here,” she said. “And it’s exciting because it’s the first time a lot of my family will be able to attend and see me perform with the orchestra.”

Boson Mo, a graduate student studying violin performance, shared DeCesare’s excitement about the tour.

“It’s amazing to be here,” he said. “I’m also thrilled that my mother (who lives in Baltimore) will be able to attend tomorrow’s concert. I’ve never felt so good about going on tour and performing. I feel like we’re just ready to make music and have fun.”

Titus Underwood, a graduate student studying oboe performance, called the tour “absolutely exciting.”

“Everyone’s really happy to be here, and we’ve had all this preparation and buildup, and I think we’re ready for it,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Underwood noted that the preparation for the tour was quite rigorous, but well worth the effort.

“We know what we want to do with every note and every phrase of the music, and Larry [Rachleff] is a great leader. He’s definitely led us in the right direction to make this concert nothing short of fantastic,” Underwood said.

For more coverage of the orchestra’s East Coast tour, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.