Not your average jazz concert

The only thing better than eating good food is eating good food while listening to good music. The music and humanities department gave that opportunity to a room full of family, friends and students who attended the Jazz Ensemble’s Spring Recital April 26 as the 17-member band played in the Reber-Thomas Executive Dining Hall.

This is the first time the music department held a concert in the Executive Dining Hall. Originally scheduled for the Towns Auditorium, the venue and time were changed last minute when the Fray concert was scheduled for the same night.

“We came to find out that the Fray was invited and that’s a really big campus concert. We didn’t want to play for an empty room so we decided we were going to do something a little different,” Concert Director Stephen Kerr said.

Ryan Babbitt, a Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) junior, came to the concert to watch his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Burroughs, play saxophone with the jazz ensemble. He said that the Executive Dining Hall was a great place to have the show.

“I felt like I was in a coffee shop with a live band. The setting was nice and dark with the ambient lighting. It was well put together,” Babbitt said.

The concert’s setting allowed students eating dinner in the main dining room a chance to hear the band and watch them play. Students ate at tables, bobbing their heads and tapping their feet as they listened to the lively band fill the room with the sounds of jazz music from throughout the 20th century.

Kerr said that he choose different types of jazz music to make the program more interesting and diverse.

“I look at a program that allows people to choose their own favorite. If everything was the same it would get boring after a while,” Kerr said. “There’s always got to be changes that go on, otherwise one tune sounds like the next.”

The director added that having a mix of music helps appeal to the different tastes of each audience member.

“Different styles make it interesting so when you’re working your way through a concert, you capture the interest of everyone who’s there,” Kerr said. “So when you leave the concert at least one song stood out to you.”

Kerr added that because the band spends so much time playing together during biweekly practices and basketball games, they have become aware and confident in each other’s playing ability.

Senior Thomas Usewicz plays trombone in the jazz ensemble and said that the group has definitely learned to play well and have fun.

“It’s definitely a lot of focus. At the same time jazz in itself is laid back so if you can’t have fun with it, you’re more than likely not going to be able to get into the music as much, and that’s part of the music,” Usewicz said.

Listeners also got to know the players more as students introduced each song and each soloist. Kerr hoped that audience members would see the personality of the performers and show listeners the importance of music.

“I really think it’s important for the audience to have the background so that they have a connection rather than just hearing music play. If they know a little bit about the music or composer, it tends to make the performance more meaningful and makes for a more enjoyable connection between the jazz ensemble and the audience,” Kerr said.

Though the jazz ensemble will not be playing any more concerts this semester, Kerr notes the importance of shows like these and says that they can be a big part of a student’s education, not only for the player but for the listener.

“Music is such an important part of our culture, so having some knowledge about music is really an important part of who we are. If the only thing we listen to is pop on the radio, I think we’re limiting ourselves,” Kerr said.

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