The Weber State University Jazz Ensemble didn’t let the change of venue throw them off when they performed Tuesday night.
Their usual venue, the Browning Center’s Allred Theater, had already been booked, so instead they moved to a ballroom at the Shepherd Union Building, which they filled with an audience eager for jazz.
The Jazz Ensemble has been under the leadership of Dr. Don Keipp for 27 years although it has been around for much longer. It is composed of saxophones, trumpets, trombones and a rhythm section, making a total of 20 students.
In order to become a member of the ensemble, students have to go through a tryout process. The first step is to attend the first rehearsal of the academic school year in which an audition of sorts is held. Students are asked to sight-read music, improvise and then play their instruments to see how their skills hold up. After all students have a chance to perform, the students that will make up the Jazz Ensemble are chosen.
The ensemble has two annual performances on campus: a fall and a spring concert. While the fall concert usually features big band pieces, the spring concert has lesser-known, more contemporary selections.
When it comes to music selection, Keipp said he likes to have a variety of styles. The spring concert this year featured swinging, rock and Latin American tunes and even a jazz waltz, which are not often performed. Although the pieces performed at the concert might not have been easily recognizable, there was one number that the majority of the audience might have easily identified, and that was the theme from Sesame Street, which ended the concert.
The music chosen also has another important factor behind it. It is meant to showcase the students abilities.
“We’ve got some fine soloists, so I pick music that will fit them,” Keipp said.
Audiences can also be assured they won’t hear the same song repeated for a long time.
“I don’t want to have students play a song twice while they’re in our program” Keipp said.
According to Keipp, most students in participating in Jazz Ensemble have plans to become music educators, but there are a few who have other plans. Walter Rosio, a trumpet player, is a political science major with a minor in music.
“I tried a major in music education last semester, but it wasn’t for me,” Rosio said.
Although he has plans on continuing with the Jazz Ensemble while at WSU, Rosio said he plans on pursuing law school after graduation.
With a major in instrumental music education, Andrew Wood is a Jazz Ensemble member who plans on continuing with music. He has played trumpet since the age of four when his dad introduced him to the instrument.
“Hopefully, I’d like to get a masters, go on to get a doctorate and have my own band in a college program or my own orchestra,” Wood said.
Other than their performances on campus, the students in the Jazz Ensemble have extra opportunities to show off their skills. From time to time, they visit local high schools and perform. They are also the pit orchestra for the Crystal Crest awards held yearly on campus.
In addition to their various performances in the area and two on campus, the Jazz Ensemble also performs at the Union Station in downtown Ogden as a part of the ongoing Jazz at the Station series. Their next performance will be March 14. More information can be found at weber.edu/performingarts.