The Mesquite Trio: ASU’s Traveling Musicians
November 21, 2016
For almost a decade, the Mesquite Trio has performed throughout Texas and the U.S., representing Angelo State University and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.
Named for the mesquite trees around San Angelo and comprised of ASU music faculty Drs. Timothy Bonenfant on clarinet, Constance (Connie) Kelley on flute and Jeff Womack on bassoon (and occasionally oboe), the trio was founded in 2007.
“The trio started to form when Jeff got here,” Bonenfant said, “with the two of us playing duos. Connie joined the faculty the year after that.”
“I had just arrived in San Angelo,” Kelley said, “and my first day on campus they said, ‘Go grab your flute! Let’s read.’”
Since then, the Mesquite Trio has performed at shows and venues both large and small, including holiday parties in the ASU president’s home, events at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and, their personal favorite, the dedication of ASU’s Eldon Black Recital Hall. They have also traveled regionally and out of state, performing as many as 30 concerts a year.
“To begin with,” Womack said, “the immediate goal was trying to build a program and increase enrollment.”
“If people outside of San Angelo are like me,” Bonenfant added, “I didn’t even know this place existed until I applied for the job. We wanted to let people know about Angelo State University, and then from there demonstrate what we are capable of.”
“We have documentation,” Kelley said, “of students who have said that they chose Angelo State because the Mesquite Trio visited their high school and they learned about ASU.”
Along with promoting ASU, playing together as a chamber trio helps them stay sharp on their individual instruments, as well as enhance their classroom teaching.
“In a chamber music setting, you’re the only one playing your part,” Womack said. “There isn’t another person playing along with you, so you can’t hide. We all have equally important roles and those roles are different. They change from piece to piece, composer to composer. Playing chamber music really sharpens your skills and focus.”
“We want to enhance our students so they go and represent Angelo State as successful graduates with a well-rounded, thorough education.”
“It makes you a better musician overall,” he added. “The more we play and practice, the more we grow. As we learn things, we can apply them in our teaching with our own students.”
“It sets a standard for our students,” Bonenfant said. “It lets us say, ‘This is what you should be shooting for.’ I tell my students all the time that perfection is a nice thing to shoot for, but it’s much more important to focus on improvement rather than being perfect every time, because you’re not going to be perfect.”
With their lineup of clarinet-flute-bassoon not being as common as a woodwind or brass quintet or string quartet, the trio is also promoting its distinctive sound.
“Part of our mission is to help grow the repertoire for our exact instrumentation,” Kelley said.
“We have documentation of students who have said that they chose Angelo State because the Mesquite Trio visited their high school and they learned about ASU.”
“We’ve explored a lot, and we find new things all the time,” Womack said. “We’ve actively sought out composers to write things. One of our colleagues, Steven Emmons, has written a number of pieces for us.”
“At a recent conference,” added Bonenfant, “a composer introduced himself to us and told us that he had a piece for our instrumentation. He’s already emailed it to me. We wouldn’t know about it if we didn’t put ourselves out there.”
Most recently, the trio performed a recital on campus in October and at the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors Convention in Santa Fe, N.M. This spring, they plan to perform locally in the “Faculty and Friends” recital, and they have several other projects in the works. But wherever they go, their goal remains the same.
“We do this for our own personal growth and to enhance our teaching,” Womack said. “We want to enhance our students so they go and represent Angelo State as successful graduates with a well-rounded, thorough education. We feel a responsibility individually and as a group to the university, to the community.”