Last Wednesday night, the JSU Jazz Department presented their Fall Jazz Showcase, featuring guest artist Lester Walker on trumpet.
The biggest theme apparent in this particular performance was the amount of trust shared between the students and their directors or instructors.
Students have to learn to trust different directors; they have to be very flexible under changing leadership, one of the many skills that prepares them for the real world.
Jazz involves musically trusting the musicians around you.
Music paints pictures and references allusions; it’s all about conversation and communication.
The students got to perform with professional trumpet player, Lester Walker.
According to bassist Trevor Stewart, working with a professional “teaches real world experience, especially when dealing with gigs.”
The students enjoyed performing with Walker, but his experience with the students was just as fulfilling.
Walker explained that his favorite part of working with young people is “the fact that they’re young and they’re trying.”
Walker says, “It’s simply amazing to see so many young people in this field; they bring a freshness to music that’s worth its weight in gold.”
A few of the students got to experience their musical world from the conductor’s perspective during the performance.
“It was a lot of fun,” explained tenor sax player, Jarrett Irish, who had the opportunity to direct Big Bands II and III.
“It’s literally two big bands put together, so it’s a little harder to cue solos. I tell them to signal me if they want a solo, so I have to scan the band really quickly to find the next soloist before the current soloist finishes. But it’s not as difficult as one would think.”
The idea of musical and creative trust really hit home with Irish. “It gives you a chance to cut loose and interact with the band a little bit.
Irish continues, “You also hear completely differently when you’re out front. You have to make sure everyone is blending and playing the same stylistically. It can be a bit of a challenge, especially when there’s no score.”
Some of the newer students were very pleased to find out that jazz can’t really be boxed up neatly and placed on a shelf.
Sadika Anderson, baritone sax, explained that his favorite was Jazz I’s rendition of Hunting Wabbits. “It starts out in a way that makes you wonder how in the world it’s considered jazz,” says Anderson.
The jazz program has been growing more and more successful each year.
Jazz professor, Dr. Andy Nevala, had a lot to say on the subject. “We wouldn’t be able to do any of the things we do – recording, bringing in guest artists – without support from the amazing staff of the David L. Walters Department of Music. Mainly it’s the students that choose to participate.”
“It’s our job, or more specifically my job, to provide a learning environment that’s directly connected to the real world the students will face when they graduate,” he asserts.
Nevala continues with, “The perception of what ‘Jazz Education’ means has changed drastically in the last 30 years; most of the music departments in colleges and universities today are struggling to catch up in the study of Jazz, holding on to the ideology of the study of music as being the same as studying relics and fossils in a museum.”
He continues, “Jazz Education today is the study of many different styles that make up Jazz, the history behind those styles, the social developments in our country that influenced those style changes, the different regions and areas of our country that influenced those styles (and why), and the performances, practices, and opportunities related to the different Jazz styles.”
Nevala believes that diversity and flexibility promote strength in any music department.
He says, “One of the reasons the program is growing is because most of our Jazz faculty are active performers in all musical styles, playing in symphony orchestras one night, church the next, a restaurant the next night, a salsa band the next night, a pit orchestra the next night, presenting research papers at conferences, arranging music for different ensembles, recording CDs, playing festivals – you name it, we are out there doing it.”
For more information on merchandise or future performances, visit jsujazz.webs.com.