UA JazzFest kicks off


Sydney Laubscher

Whether you like the big band sound or smooth undertones, the premiere of the four-day JazzFest, held in the Guzzetta Recital Hall, was the place to be on Tuesday. Students, directors and professors alike expressed their love for jazz and live performance for the twelfth consecutive year at the University of Akron.

UA piano professor and vocal jazz conductor Rock Wehrmann gives praise to the program.

“The jazz department here is the hippest in the state of Ohio,” said Wehrmann. “Ensembles are completely directed by the undergrads and grads – they’re the ones arranging, writing and playing the music. They take on full responsibility of the festival.”

There were five separate bands playing, each with their own theme influenced by jazz.

The program began with a group of seven students depicting “early jazz.” Directed by student trumpet player Isaac Winland, the three songs played had a big band sound with an old-fashioned feel. In this band, Max Brady (senior trombonist) reveals his simple reason for playing in the JazzFest four years in a row.

“We’re here to play music and have fun – it’s a blast every time,” said Brady.

The second band was just as exciting as the first. The five in this group worked together to portray the blues – a form of jazz developed from 19th century spiritual, slave and work songs. Expressing the blues theme, these three songs were a smooth representation of blues stars Charlie Parker, Sam Jones and John Coltrane.

After the blues came the vocal jazz ensemble. From scatting to high notes, these performers were able to illustrate how advanced the program here is. Nichole Mosley, senior member of vocal jazz, describes the group as one that stamps an impression on its audience.

“Vocal jazz ensemble is the best ensemble here because of our energy,” said Mosley. “Overall, we’re jazzy, sassy and sexy.”

Rachel Jencen, a freshman, describes her viewpoint as an audience member.

“I thought it was sweet how the vocalists were able to make music without using words – just sounds,” said Jencen.

Perhaps one of the most entertaining bands of the evening was the one demonstrating the “Standards of Jazz.” What made this band really stand out was the piano player, student Sharrah Miree. She wowed the crowd over and over with her solos that seemed nearly impossible to play.

The very last group of the evening was expressing “Fusion Jazz.” The students – Michael Vincent, Zach Nagi-Schehl and Steave Neal – wrote and performed their own work, infusing traditional jazz with modern funk and rock.

“It’s so cool that the JazzFest is organized where student pieces can have the spotlight,” said Neal.

“I think it’s an excellent thing – to give the community a chance to experience music that’s technically not part of
pop culture,” said Nagi-Schehl, sophomore bassist of the group.

Overall, the premier to the JazzFest was a success and really gave the audience the rest of the week to look forward to. Don’t miss the last two opportunities of 2013 to experience jazz at The University of Akron.

“The songs were great, the sound was awesome, and I would have come even if it wasn’t free,” said freshman Ryan Luccioni.

The JazzFest continues Thursday at 8 p.m. in E.J. Thomas Hall with guest clarinetist and saxophonist Ken Peplowski teaming up with University of Akron faculty. Tickets are free for University of Akron students with a valid Zip Card, and cost $12 for everyone else.

The JazzFest ends Friday with Ken Peplowski teaming up with the University of Akron’s student band. Again, the concert starts at 8 p.m. and is free for UA students with a valid Zip Card, and $12 for everyone else.

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