Symphonic Winds and Jazz Ensemble go ‘Out of This World’

Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

The Music and Theatre Department is featuring a variety of concerts during the first few weeks of March. In addition to the choir concert on March 8, the Symphonic Winds and Jazz Ensemble will be performing in their concert, Out of This World, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, in Rice Auditorium. Alongside the two bands, a smaller Dixieland ensemble, Dixiecats, will perform as well.

While the Symphonic Winds concerts theme will be space, the Jazz Ensemble, directed by Professor of Music J.D. Parr, will not have an overall theme. Even so, Parr finds that this set has several fun and uplifting pieces, including two works by the group Earth, Wind & Fire. Since the recent passing of the lead founder of group, Maurice White, Parr thinks their selections are even more appropriate.

“We’ve also got a famous, early 1960s Funk tune called “Mercy Mercy, Mercy” for Steven Stendebach who has been wanting to play this for years,” Parr said. “I finally gave in.”

According to Parr, as well as being upbeat, the Earth, Wind & Fire titles, “Getaway” and “In the Stone”, are two of the most difficult selections in this set. Due to the nature of the music and the attempt to remain authentic to the original sound, Parr believes that it is the trumpets, trombones and saxophones that have the greatest challenge.

“Earth, Wind & Fire used a horns section in their band, so they’ve got a challenge. Saxes kind of take the vocal line, but the brass in general have the hard part,” Parr said.

Junior Trevon Waddle, one of the soloists being featured during the Jazz Ensemble set, is most looking forward to the Earth, Wind & Fire piece, “In the Stone,” but believes the entire set is something to be excited about.

“By the end of it, ultimately everybody is going to be in a good mood, and they’ll walk away happier than when they came in,” Waddle said. “Everyone has fun on stage, and it’s really hard not to catch that fever.”

During the Jazz Ensemble set, there will be several other soloists, including juniors Matt Mogle, Lora Finley and Tyler Samms and senior Steven Stendebach. Junior Madison Wendt will also be featured as a vocalist, singing a tune by the Spiral Staircase called “More Today Than Yesterday,” a rock song from the ‘60s.

“More Today Than Yesterday” has a special place in Parr’s heart, as it was arranged by a former Baker student, Brian Loux, specifically for Baker.

“I’ve always loved ‘More Today Than Yesterday,’ and I’ve thought it would be a wonderful Jazz Band feature, but no one had ever arranged it for Jazz, that I’d found,” Parr said. “I asked a former student if he would arrange this especially for us, so he did, and Madison does a wonderful job with that, so I’m excited.”

Even though it is a smaller concert, with the larger concert taking place April 14, Parr believes that there will be a wide variety of “fun to listen to” music.

“It will be a half hour of fun and an enjoyable diversion from basketball, television and studying,” Parr.

The Symphonic Winds portion of the program, directed by Director of Band and Assistant Professor of Music Frank Perez, will feature a space theme, modeled after the two Star Wars medleys the group will be performing.

Even though it is a break from the norm for Perez to feature a cinema score, he beslieves that with the sudden rise in popularity and new release of the seventh episode in the saga, there will never be a better time to perform something that is both nostalgic to hear and entertaining to play.

“Our students have been dying to do Star Wars, so I gave it a lot of thought,” Perez said. “It’s a movie that I grew up with that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s causing a lot of excitement worldwide, so I thought it would be a great chance to program music students can be excited about.”

Though Perez know he wanted the Star Wars medleys, coming up with accompanying pieces proved to be a challenge. Alongside the Star Wars medleys and other space-themed pieces, the Symphonic Winds will also be doing a hymn from Jupiter by Gustav Holst and “Transcendent Journey” composed by Rossano Galante. Next to the Star Wars medleys, Perez finds that he is most looking forward to the Galante piece due to its beautiful and melodious nature, though it is also the most challenging piece.

“It’s not only our most challenging work,” Perez said, “but it’s also a very beautiful piece with something for all of the instruments to enjoy.”

The Symphonic Winds will also feature a variety of small solos. Some of those soloists include freshman Kristen Shaw and senior Aubrey Eicher.

Even though selecting the works was a challenge, Perez is excited about the performance.

“Hopefully, audience members will get a sense of nostalgia from the Star Wars music, Perez said. “But they’ll also get to hear masterworks by Richard Strauss and Gustav Holst, and it’s not very often that we get to play music by those composers as they’re very significant and beautiful works.”

Perez will direct both the Symphonic Winds and the Dixieland band ensemble, the Dixiecats. According to Perez, Dixieland is a form of music that emerged in the 1920s, and the small combo of piano, drums, guitar, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone and two trombones will be a “great change of pace” from the full big band. Perez himself will be playing the trombone.

“It’s just a great opportunity to see live music,” Waddle said.

Regardless of the fact that this is a smaller, introductory concert for the semester, both Parr and Perez are more than excited for the evening of musical festivities.

“We invite everybody on campus,” Perez said. “Our students have been working very hard preparing this program for the community to enjoy, so bring a friend, and come enjoy a relaxing evening of music and experience what our students have been up to.”