Alexandra O’Neal, Arts & Entertainment Correspondent
On Friday, November 8, Jacksonville State University Jazz Ensembles transformed the fifth floor of Meehan Hall into a jazz club. Saxophonist Brad Walker joined the ensembles for a night of jazz and entertainment.
This past Thursday, August 22, as a part of welcome week, Jacksonville State University hosted their fall semester concert, this time with country music star Scotty McCreery. McCreery won the tenth season of American Idol in 2011 and has since became a well-known name in the country music industry.
Uncertainty was taking over just a couple of hours before the concert was to take place. Just above the massive stage set up in the Meehan Hall parking lot, adjacent to Mountain Street, clouds threatened to release a treacherous downpour. The approaching storm was not enough to send the hundreds of audience members from crowding the stage in anticipation.
After concert-goers having to take shelter in various campus locations while the thunderstorm passed over Jacksonville, the concert was finally able to start. The entire parking lot was buzzing with concert-goers ready to catch a glimpse of McCreeryand listen to his catchy, country hits. He emerged on stage, filled with energy and ready to play some of his most well-known songs
The country music star kicked off the concert with “Buzzin”, which was released in 2013. He created a fun, electric atmosphere for all the fans watching the concert by singing various chart-toppers of his such as “Boys From Back Home”, “Feelin’ It”, “This is It”, “Five More Minutes” and “Seasons Change”.
McCreery took a break between some of his hits to honor early 2000s country artists by covering their songs. He performedGeorge Strait’s number one hit “Check Yes or No” .
The close call with the weather was not enough to discourage or disrupt welcome week festivities. McCreery delivered an incredible, energized performance that the audience was able to enjoy with ease, and will surely remember for quite some time.
After 6 months of hurt and healing, destruction and rebuilding, sorrow and joy; Jacksonville State University took a special step in its recovery. Wednesday night, the JSU community gathered together to raise money for the universities recovery from the March tornado.
Randy Owen, lead guitarist of Alabama as well as aJSU alumnus and trustee, decided after the tornado that he wanted to do something to help the community. He decided on organizing a concert to raise funds for the university. The concert ended up being a resounding success.
The event was attended by several country music artists, many of which are originally from the state of Alabama. Along with Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook of Alabama; the concert also featured:
● Charlie Daniels
● Jason Isbell and the 400 unit
● Home Free
● The Sweet Tea Trio
● John Berry
● Drake White
● Gordon Mote
● Jamey Johnson
● Riley Green
Also featured was comedian Darren Knight, known for his Southern Momma social media videos. The concert was hosted by Storme Warren of SiriusXM’s The Highway.
While most of the acts were announced beforehand, some were left as surprises for the audience. These included Drake White, Home Free, and The Sweet Tea Trio. Together with the other bands they put on quite the show.
Many of the acts were also from the state of Alabama. It seemed in many ways a concert that was meant to give back to their collective home. Of special note are Randy Owen and Riley Green who are both JSU alumni. That seemed to be the theme of the night: to give back and remember what home is all about, coming together and having a good time.
JSU’s Latin Ensemble and Steel Band performed on Tuesday night at the Mason Hall Performance Center. The Latin Ensemble is under the direction of Dr. Andy Nevala and the steel band is under the direction of Dr. Tony McCutchen.
The Steel Band contains varying types of steel drums. These including tenors, double tenors, guitar pans and bass pans. The electric bass and drum set played by Ryan Grider and Colin James are in the ensemble as well.
The Steel Band has practiced for this concert since the beginning of the semester, but while preparing for other events alongside. The ensemble performed at the Black History Month concert in February. In addition, the group will also perform Thursday the 30th at Randall McDonald and DJ Hester’s percussion recital.
The Latin Ensemble consisted of several percussionists, as well as other vital instruments. Matt Whitehead and Jared Triggs played trumpet while Devin Hale played the baritone saxophone, and Susana Rivas played the trombone.
Rivas says she loves the way that Latin Jazz sounds.
“Playing Jazz is whole other world of music. The music written is not what makes Latin Jazz fun, it’s the musicality that [a performer] puts behind it that makes it enjoyable,” said Rivas.
The Latin Ensemble has performed several times this semester. This includes Jared Triggs’s recital, Lincoln High School, and even at Brother’s Bar in Jacksonville. They will also be performing on Friday, March 31st for the 6th annual Jazz Festival, featuring several other Jazz ensembles.
The concert started out with the Latin Ensemble playing El Shing-A-Ling by Poncho Sanchez followed by Guantanamera by Jose Fernandez. Several of the wind players and percussionists were featured in solos for these pieces. This included Benji Bess on piano and Danny Moore, Daniel Allen and Parker Niece on several different percussion instruments. They ended their portion of the program with So What by Miles Davis.
The Steel Band performed next. Their portion started off with the famous piece called, “William Tell” by Gioachino Rossini. They also played familiar pieces like “Knee Deep” by the Zac Brown Band. This was arranged by Kramer Smith, a tenor steel
The Latin Ensemble and the Steel Band joined forces later in the program to create a combined and unique sound. The combined band played two songs, which included “Another Star” by Stevie Wonder and “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang.
The concert ended by the replaying “William Tell,” but this time, it was slightly different. It was given more of a rock vibe by letting Colin James play the drum set. At the end of the piece, James played a fast and energetic drum solo. When he concluded, the audience erupted with cheers and gave a standing ovation.
The concert was a success. The musicians were happy with their performance. Kevin Geeter, a steel band performer, loves what he does and described it as, “It doesn’t feel like another ensemble. It feels like I have time to relax and have fun doing something different than normal,” said Geeter.
Other performers, like Shelby Hudgins love the freedom being in Steel Band provides.
The energy in the room was unimaginable and the audience agreed that it was an entertaining concert to watch. Both ensembles have performances left in the semester and all are encouraged to join.
JSU raised over $400 toward building a well in India—just by playing music.
On Thursday, March 9, the JSU Gives Water charity concert was held on the TMB lawn as part of Homecoming King Carson Bruce’s philanthropy, Neverthirst. The lineup for the evening included the local bands The Frequently, The Great Escape, The Sunsets and Rapper DPB.
Bruce, a Marching Southerner and communication major, was crowned JSU’s 2016 Homecoming King in October. As part of a new reform, all Homecoming candidates arerequired to have a philanthropic platform, and the winner must host one event to benefit that cause during his or her reign.
Bruce’s philanthropy, Neverthirst, is an international Christian nonprofit that brings clean water to underprivileged areas in southern Asia and northern Africa. According to the organization’s website, Neverthirst has provided clean water to over 415,000 people through 6,400 projects in five countries.
“Neverthirst does such a great job at communicating with the people of the villages and with the people who fundraise. I chose them because they are loyal and faithful to serve the world in such a tangible way,” Bruce said. The importance of this well is to ultimately give the people in that region of India clean water. “It is important to the college students because it gives the opportunity to give something that is larger than themselves.”
Bruce’s goal while Homecoming King is for JSU to raise $3,000 to build a well in India. After Thursday’s concert, over $1,400 has been raised.
“We are so vastly blessed in America; it is time to think less of our wants and more of the immediate needs of people who are less fortunate,” said Bruce. “Just imagine if your family did not have enough clean water to drink, cook, or wash with. This project means so much to the region of people we will be helping in India.”
Admission was not charged for the JSU Gives Water concert. All the money raised came from donations made by JSU students, faculty and staff and the Jacksonville community.
Bruce is also partnering with Chick-fil-A of Pell City, Ala. and Engage JSU to raise funds through t-shirt and raffle sales. T-shirts are $20 for short-sleeved shirts and $25 for long-sleeved. Raffle tickets are for a portable Bluetooth speaker and Neverthirst shirt and are $5per entry. The drawing will be held at Engage JSU’s meeting on Monday, April 10 at 8 p.m.