WSU Symphonic Band Showcase: unBroken

Weber State University’s Symphonic Band playing music for their audience.

Weber State University’s Symphonic Band performed their latest concert, unBroken, in the Austad Auditorium on Feb. 24. The concert primarily focused on mental health, with the aim to open up more conversations surrounding what’s considered to be a taboo issue.

Band director Steven Hendricks wanted to center the concert around the themes of their finale piece, “unBroken.” The other pieces were called “When Hearts Tremble,” “Dusk” and “Zoom.”

“I just tied it all together into one sentence and basically said, ‘Your heart may tremble. It may feel like you’re heading into an endless night, or it may feel like the world is moving so fast you can’t keep up,’” Hendricks said.

The song “unBroken” was composed by musical artist Randall Standridge, and tries to emulate what mental illness feels like through music.

Standridge drew inspiration from his own childhood when creating this piece. His mother was affected by a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized for a year.

The piece is called “unBroken” because Standridge does not consider his family to be broken even after such hardships. Standridge considers himself to be better off because of it, noting that he’s more able to be in touch with his own mental health. Not only does his piece allow conversation, but it also helped him process his mom’s hospitalization.

Standridge composed the song to start with a soft, gentle melody. Slowly, dissonance begins to creep in, symbolizing signs of anxiety or depression. The song ramps up to a loud, rushing middle, and then finally cools off to return to the beginning melody.

“In the song ‘unBroken,’ there’s this beautiful melody that will play out, and then all of a sudden, there’ll be like a jab of anxiety and dissonance, and that’s kind of how life is,” clarinetist Abigail Elmer said.

Standridge said he added subtle dissonance to create an ambiguous ending. It’s meant to show that the mental illness is currently gone, but still has the chance of coming back.

“I’m just excited because of what it means to the students,” Hendricks said.

In a regular band program note, Hendricks would typically write more in depth explanations of what each song is about. For this concert, he included Standridge’s program note for “unBroken” and then allowed students to anonymously share some of their own mental health stories. Hendricks saw a connection between this song and his students.

“Mental health is something that’s incredibly important to me,” Jordan Webecke, principal clarinetist in WSU’s Symphonic Band, said. “I have two mental health diagnoses that I’m still learning to live with and figure out. It’s probably the most poetic and accurate expression of a lot of the experiences I have with mental health.”

Standridge concluded his program note with the message, “You are not weak. You are not defective. You are not broken.”