Purdue's Sudler winner Monica Boothe featured in concert
Whether she’s leading cymbal antics in the “All-American” Marching Band or making multiple mallets fly over a marimba in concert, Monica Boothe exudes intensity.
Boothe’s intensity won her two major awards this spring – the 2003 Sudler Prize in the Arts and the Purdue Concerto Competition – and the honor of soloing with the Purdue Orchestra in its season finale concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette.
To win the Sudler Prize, which carries a $1,000 award, Boothe had to compete against the top seniors from every department in the Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue. Part of her presentation was Keiko Abe’s “Prism Rhapsody,” which she’ll perform with the orchestra on April 27.
“It’s in the Japanese style which means it’s very aggressively written and the tempos are very fast. I found that to be a very appealing style,” Boothe says. “It’s pretty intense.”
When the classical studies major came to Purdue four years ago from Indianapolis’ Cathedral High School she had never played marimba, but it quickly became a goal when she found Purdue Bands offered wide-ranging opportunities to non-music majors. “Prism Rhapsody” represents a pinnacle of achievement, not just for the awards it has brought her, but because she can now confidently fly over the keys with as many as six mallets.
Six mallets may represent the biggest challenge, but “you only think of them together as chord. There’s not a lot of movement. Four mallets is the peak of expressions because you can think of them in pairs and individually,” she says. In “Prism Rhapsody,” the moods race from ones resembling quiet conversation to thunderous cascades of sound.
Boothe loves the cadenza section because it offers the soloist interpretive freedom. Without the orchestra, “you really are by yourself. You take the music into your hands and just go with it. That’s pretty liberating. I enjoy that part,” Boothe says.
Talented seniors, like Boothe, are expected to shine as graduation approaches. But Boothe’s impact on Purdue University Bands started the first semester of her freshman year when the 300 plus members of the “All-American” Marching Band selected her as the Marching Freshman of the Year.
Purdue’s percussion specialist Pamela Nave noticed Boothe immediately. From one football game to another, “we recycle songs and all together there’s about 30. I realized the whole cymbal line (including the upperclassmen) was watching Monica for their part. She had them all memorized, and all the counts memorized – and hadn’t forgotten any of the old ones,” Nave says.
“It’s unusual to see someone like Monica, who’s not a music major, make such demands on herself as a musician. I wish I could have gotten music majors, when I taught them, to practice as much as she does.”
Boothe, who’s interested in pursuing a collegiate teaching career, is a Leath Scholar at Bands and participates in Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensembles and Winter Drum Line. She’s also played a key role in developing Bands interactive music education program, Purdue Band Ambassadors, which goes into elementary schools.
She loves being in front of people – whether it’s in a classroom of a couple dozen fifth graders or a football stadium packed with thousands.
“Performing makes you feel acutely alive. Playing together with other people and working hard to make it all come together is rewarding, not only to body and mind, but heart and soul. Music is about heart and soul, how it touches you and you touch others,” Boothe says.
“And boy it is a good time!”