Jazz band celebrates expression

Guest performer James Henning plays trombone with Union's Jazz Band as they provide a variety of musical selections, involving the audience in several pieces. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Sidney Burngasser

The familiar melodies of Sinatra and Arlen permeated the halls of the Penick Academic Complex on Nov. 30, as the Jazz Band recreated America’s signature sound.

The 19-member ensemble invited the audience to sing along as they performed jazz standards, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “Almost Like Being in Love” and “I Got You Under My Skin.”

The evening included a fusion of traditional swing jazz and Latin jazz, and even Christmas favorites. Kelsey Samples, senior music and special education double major, was the featured soloist.

“Jazz Band is cool,” Samples said. “There’s something for everybody. This genre bridges the gap between what is ‘hip’ and the music department’s usually classical fare. People come together from all over campus for a jam session.”

The ensemble is considered a “Big Band,” a classification given to an ensemble of saxophone, trombone, trumpet, guitar, bass, drum set and piano. Jazz music can be played by a soloist or a combination of these instruments.

Dr. David McClune, university professor of music and conductor of the Jazz Band, encouraged members of the audience to sit back, relax and be entertained by a singularly American art form.

McClune, now in his 20th year as conductor, said he has had a passion for jazz since he was 15 years old.

“Jazz is the only original American art form,” McClune said. “Jazz continues an age-old tradition of music that is partly rehearsed and partly improvised. American jazz is a fusion of musical styles from Africa, Europe and Latin America, all combined together.”

Chase Techentin, sophomore music major and band member, said he joined the ensemble because he is passionate about music, especially a genre that allows him to loosen up and perform.

“Jazz is important,” Techentin said. “It is a uniquely American style, and it’s part of our cultural identity. Most people view Americans as pushy, fat, rich people who are ignorant of the rest of the world, but jazz music is an amazing offering to the global community.”

Dr. Chris Mathews, associate professor of music and department chair, acknowledged the band’s cultural importance, but emphasized the significance of jazz music for students studying music at Union University.

“Jazz Band is unique not only in its repertoire, but also in the opportunity it provides students to explore improvisation,” Mathews said. “Dr. McClune does a fabulous job directing this ensemble, picking exceptional music, rehearsing with a high degree of efficiency and presenting very enjoyable concerts.

“His musical expertise is combined with his fun-loving spirit, a perfect example of the jazz music his ensemble performs, which requires technique and knowledge mixed with the ability to feel the moment and create on the spot.”

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