In a world where music instructors shoo away Kirby's sheet music, where your sweet Final Fantasy cover baffles loved ones, and where society disassociates Mario from saxophones, one orchestra stands defiant and proud of their nerdy accolades. The Reno Video Game Symphony cries, "For guts! For glory! For video games!" with their instruments held high. Or they would if they weren't so busy actually playing them.
If you've never heard of the Reno Video Game Symphony, you've missed out on consistent and unique takes on some of the industry's most iconic tunes, as well as some of the more obscure ones. Their name pretty much covers their musical motif, but the tale and function behind the RVGS goes far deeper than their title. Read on for everything you need to know about this unique concert experience.
Instrumental love and classical roots meld with a modern hobby.
The symphony is actually a not-for-profit, educational band program founded back in August of 2011. In their quest to promote the arts in Reno, Nevada, the group concentrates on video game soundtracks to fuel their creative fire. In the spirit of quest-worthy ambition, the RVGS claims to be dedicated not only to Reno, but to the entire West Coast.
They describe their ideals succinctly on Facebook:
"The Reno Video Game Symphony is a unique band program focused on educating: educating its members through rehearsal, educating the community through performance, and educating the world through collaboration."
Practice as gamers, dazzles as performers.
"Video games have immense potential in the improvement of our lives, and we believe that [they] are a uniquely inclusive medium that almost anybody can enjoy."
The symphony counts a pretty hefty assortment of performers among their ranks. Roughly thirty to fifty musicians range in age and experience from high school teens to college students to older adults. As nonprofit implies, the symphony gets neither cash nor even class credit (where applicable) for their artistic feats. Shared passion for both music and video games brings these folks together for weekly practice sessions.
Players: choose your class.
"Our group is built on an appreciation of video games as a modern artistic medium."
Musicians aren't limited to an orchestra. The symphony supports an open door policy for members to create their own groups, resulting in a handful of individually-run ensembles. The performers fill in orchestra seats, a Choir, the Bigger Band (formerly the Jazz band), the Tomo Club (acoustic group), and Tantalus (Jazz combo). Back in August of 2015, the RVGS even included a combo called "The Supa Koopa Cousins."
Above: Tantalus at the NV150 State Fair in the summer of 2014.
The RVGS works within a vast audio track playground.
Rather than simply covering existing game tunes, the RVGS arranges musical covers themselves, tailoring each track to suit their ensemble(s) and musicians. They stick as closely to a goal of diversity as possible, attempting to incorporate a wide scope of games into each concert.
Games and franchises that have been covered by the group include:
- Donkey Kong
- Banjo Kazooie
- Super Mario Bros.
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- The Legend of Zelda
- Kid Icarus
- Final Fantasy
- Kingdom Hearts
- Monkey Island
- The Secret of Mana
- The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
- Solar Jetman
- Double Dragon 2
- Super Smash Bros.
- Bravely Default
Good news! You don't need a trip to Nevada to hear them play.
The RVGS hosts Spring and Winter shows while appearing at various festivals, conventions, parades, and more over the course of each year. For those who don't frequent the area, the magical properties of the Internet provide listening alternatives.
Check out three different tastes of what the RVGS has to offer below.
1. "Pokemon Battle Theme - G/S"
2. "Secret Of Mana - Into The Thick Of It - RVGS Sm. Ensemble"
3. "Fireball" from The Legend of Zelda
The Reno Video Game Symphony's educational program just extended to recording.
If you like what you hear, you should know that the RVGS is currently working on their first album. This particular effort began as a way to introduce members to professional recording. While the album's been funded, you can still mosey on over to the project's Kickstarter page for a peek at their progress and some track previews.
The original set list featured seven orchestral pieces. Since its conception, however, the album has grown to include additional songs from the ensemble Bigger Band. While their tracks have yet to be announced, the album already includes:
- "Opening" from Super Smash Bros. Melee
- "Sweden" from Minecraft
- "Stickerbrush Symphony / Bramble Blast" from Donkey Kong Country 2
- "The Sinking Country" from Bravely Default
- "Answers" from Final Fantasy XIV
- "Ending" from Yoshi's Island
- "King of King's Song" from Katamari Forever
The outcropping of organizations like The National Videogame Museum and Reno's community symphony demonstrate a serious, positive branching of gamers into new territory. While most games entail audio tracks with bigger names bringing in full-fledged composers and musicians, the moves being made by fans fall into a separate category; The RVGS approaches video game music as a creative outlet and educational tool from outside the industry and its career force.
Their goals - both the history buffs and musicians, in this case - bring serious study and appreciation to a hobby that continues to grow in financial outreach and fanbase by the day. As fun as it is to listen to a jazz rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme, it's also evidence of yet another stride in the direction of gamer world domination. Kidding, kidding. Maybe.
Seriously though, don't knock the RVGS due to its smaller community base. Ideas have to start somewhere, and this one could just signal a bigger wave to come. In any case, it's always good to know our fellow gamers don't sit idly by - we're out in the world in a full force of talent with plenty to offer, a fact that the RVGS drives home.