Jazz Week celebrates talents of musicians

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The 11th annual iteration of Jazz Week was held April 9-14 with performances from students, staff and outside musicians. The University of Indianapolis Jazz Combo started off Jazz Week with a performance on April 9. The student-led ensemble performed music composed by memorable names in jazz such as Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk, along with Broadway musicals and films from the early 20th century.

Photo by Kiuno Cann

The UIndy Jazz Ensemble performed with guest jazz guitarist Dave Stryker (second from the left) on April 12 as part of Jazz Week. Stryker also held a jazz improvisation masterclass with students earlier that same day.

On April 10, a free swing dance lesson was held before a performance by the UIndy Jazz Ensemble. Guests were taught how to perform a swing dance while a live band played on-stage, the ensemble then performed a ‘Big Band Dance.’ They then performed music from famous jazz orchestras and bands, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie. One point in the concert allowed for audience members to join the ensemble on stage and begin swing dancing to the music that was being performed.

Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Music Mark O’Connor performed on April 11. The concert featured O’Connor’s own composed work with his own ensemble. O’Connor said that the ensemble includes drummer and Owl Records owner Kenny Phelps.

The reason why UIndy has Jazz Week is to celebrate jazz music, according to O’Connor, and Jazz Week is very important to him personally.

“I get the chance to prepare my jazz ensemble and jazz combo students to perform in the real world through interactions with these world-class jazz artists,” O’Connor said. “It gives me a chance to bring the jazz scenes of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other major cities to my students as well as the greater Indianapolis [area].”

Jazz Week featured three other performances from April 12 to 14 that included the work of Dave Stryker, Chad McCullough and Dick Oatts. The three also performed masterclasses, which were solo recitals, from April 12-14 as well. The masterclasses also included work from O’Connor and percussionist Terence Mayhue.

Freshman music major Spencer Douglas was an attendee at O’Connor’s performance on April 11. He said that he enjoys the individualism that comes with the style of jazz music and that it made the experience even more enjoyable.

“What I like specifically is that in jazz each player gets their own spotlight and their [own] time to shine,” Douglas said. “It especially goes to [the performance by] O’Connor because they were his pieces. He knew exactly how to play and exactly how it should go”

Freshman psychology and pre-occupational therapy double major Nicole Baldwin, who attended the Jazz Combo performance, said that she believes that jazz music has qualities that promote opportunity. She also feels that it should receive the same recognition as other musical events on campus.

“They [UIndy] should advertise it more,” Baldwin said. “I feel like it’s a more unique platform of music to give them a unique opportunity to improvise with their skills than other concerts on campus.”

UIndy Jazz Week ended with a performance with Dick Oatts on April 14. The next musical performance will be from the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra on April 26 in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.

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