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UIndy plays series of jazz celebrations

Posted on 04.24.2013

The University of  Indianapolis hosted its sixth annual Jazz Week April 8-13. The UIndy Jazz Combo kicked off the week,  featuring Director of  Jazz Studies Harry Miedema on saxophone. On the second day of Jazz Week, the UIndy Jazz Ensemble performed. Other acts included pianist and composer Steve Allee with vibraphonist Dick Sisto, saxophonist Danny Walsh and trombonist Steve Davis. The Midcoast Swing Orchestra also performed, featuring longtime member Music Faculty Adjunct Jack Helsley on bass.
Miedema said that he has been equally happy with each Jazz Week and tries to get the best groups. But when planning the week, he does not use any formula to decide which groups to invite.
“I don’t try to get a group that plays traditional jazz, followed by a group that plays avant-garde, followed by so and so,” Miedema said. “I really just try and get the best players I can, that I would enjoy listening to,  and I assume if  I enjoy listening to them, then other people will, too.”
Miedema said that he is busy during Jazz Week. But because it has to be planned in advance, he is usually busier planning the next year’s Jazz Week than dealing with the current one.
“Because of our cultural calendar deadlines, I really have to line up the concerts for the entire school year in May,” Miedema said. “So sometimes it’s crazy calling somebody and asking if they’re free for a date, and they don’t even own a calendar for that year yet.”
Although the planning requires plenty of thought, Miedema said that no one should strain themselves trying to analyze the music.
“Well,  I think,  as with any art,  that you want to just take in what’s in front of you and either decide that you like it or don’t like it. I don’t think you want to listen for something in particular, other than just to figure out if you enjoy it or don’t enjoy it,”  Miedema said.
Miedema said, however, that he has different expectations for his students. There are certain things that he wanted them to listen for, but said studying the music would not be an issue.  According to Miedema, Jazz Week brings in acts that his students would not normally get to experience.
Senior piano performance and music composition major Matthew Bridgham performed with Miedema as a part of the Jazz Combo. He said that experiences like that help him grow as a musician.
Although he mainly studies classical music, Bridgham said that he wanted to play jazz and focus on improvisation.
“Improvisation is a huge aspect of composition and of music-making in general,” Bridgham said. “And improvisation is really just a huge aspect of being a human. We improvise all the time. Whether it’s considered artistic or not, that’s up to the viewer.”
Bridgham said that during his career at UIndy he has had the opportunity to play with Allee, Mark Buselli and, of course, Miedema.
Bridgham, who plans to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan in the fall, said that he is very grateful for the opportunities that UIndy  has provided him.
“I would be nowhere without this university and the wonderful teachers that we have in the music department.  I mean, it’s top notch,”  Bridgham said. “We have people come in from Eastman, from the University of Michigan, from Julliard—top people teaching at this very small university—and I’ve learned so much.”
Miedema said that he hoped young listeners attended Jazz Week concerts, because that was one of the original reasons why he created the event.
“When I set it up, I wanted to make sure that public school students and college students could attend these concerts for free. That’s the main thing,” Miedema said. “So we’re not making money here. In fact, most every year we lose some money.  But we do see some young people attend the concerts, and that’s an opportunity that they have that they wouldn’t normally have.”

Top: Vibraphonist Dick Sisto performs with pianist Steve Allee on April 10 during Jazz Week. Photo by Annisa Nunn

Top: Vibraphonist Dick Sisto performs with pianist Steve Allee on April 10 during Jazz Week. Photo by Annisa Nunn


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