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Jazzing up Pottle

By Annie Goodman
On October 11, 2017

Sophomore Communication major Brian Williams plays a saxophone solo as part of the Jazz Ensemble at their first concert. Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

Lecturer of Persussion and a Director of the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo Michael Brothers explains one of the pieces played by the Jazz Ensemble during the University Jazz Ensemble and Combo concert. Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

Senior music education major Austin Dugas-Higdon played the trumpet in both the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo. Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

Under the direction of Lecturer of Percussion Michael Brothers and Lecturer of Double Bass Dr. John Madere, the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo presented their first concert of the semester.

“Most people don’t realize that jazz is the only native art form to this country,” said Brothers. “Everything else, arts wise, that we experience comes from other countries, Europe, Asia. But jazz, in and of itself, is truly an American art form. I think it’s really important to support that and nurture that because it really is our only artistic contribution to the world.”

The concert, which lacked a theme, was held on Monday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pottle Music Building Recital Hall.

“At the beginning of the semester, we spent the first few rehearsals reading through a bunch of material,” said Brothers. “Prior to the school year starting, I had gone through a lot of material with Dr. Madere and kind of narrowed down the pile of music and then read through to see what the band was most capable of playing at that time. And then at that point, it’s programming the concert and a way so it works musically. You don’t want to have all the fast tunes together or all the slow tunes together. But also, to pace everything for certain instruments. In the big band particularly, the trumpet is one of the most key instruments. So, making sure that it’s paced so you don’t blow his chops out before the concert’s over.”

Brothers discussed how he and Madere like to provide students with a variety of styles to learn and perform.

“We try and do a broad cross section of material from swing chart, funk chart, Latin chart,” said Brothers. “‘Speak Like a Child’ is a very unusual chart because it’s a slow, almost ethereal thing and that takes a lot of breath control to play something like that. So, we are trying to expose the band to different styles.” 

Senior music education major Austin Dugas-Higdon played trumpet in both the combo and ensemble and expressed his joy in having the opportunity to perform different styles.

“Getting to play something different because a lot of the culture around here before Mr. Brothers and Dr. Madere came here was strictly classical-based,” said Dugas-Higdon. “Now we have a jazz program, which is much different than what we are used to do. It’s fun to play a totally different style of music.”

According to Brothers, music pieces are selected based on the skill level of the members.

“Finding what works towards the talent level of the band at this particular time” said Brothers. “As the year goes on, as the band settles in, I expect that they will change the level of what we are doing to more complicated things, especially when it comes time for the Jazz Festival in April. For the next concert that we are doing in November, we have already picked out the music for that. In fact, we’ll get right to work on that on Wednesday. It’ll have some different things from what we did in this concert.”

Dugas-Higdon hopes attendees gain “an appreciation for different kinds of music.”

“I know a lot of stuff in the concert wasn’t what people would expect to hear out of a jazz concert,” said Dugas Higdon. “I hope it open people’s eyes to there are plenty of different kinds of music out there that people can enjoy. So, I hope they have a more open mind after this concert.”

Brothers enjoys having the opportunity to share with students what he has learned through a successful music career.

“I’ve had a really long career in music,” said Brothers. “I’ve been very, very fortunate, and I have had a chance to work with some of the very best players in the world. Prior to coming here, I spent 25 years on the road doing a lot of different things. Taking that knowledge to pass it to a younger generation at this point in life, is very important to me. That’s the thing I enjoy the most. The other thing, combined with that too, is my favorite thing has always been playing in the big band. When I was coming up as a player, when I was growing up, that was a very common thing to see either live on television shows or whatever. That’s not so much the case anymore. So, to keep that aspect of the culture alive through the students, is important to me.”

Brothers believes music is beneficial for the human essence.

“It’s good for the soul,” said Brothers. “I think anything in the arts is good towards the balance of mankind in the world, work and recreation. Art is an intellectual pursuit as well as an emotional. That kind of release and that kind of exposure I think is just good for the human spirit.”

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