On Nov. 10, Armstrong’s Jazz Ensemble performed its fall concert in the Fine Arts auditorium. Coastal Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Randall Reese was the director, and Vincent Chandler, the director of jazz studies at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, was a featured musician.
The jazz ensemble performed nine jazz standards, four of which featured Chandler as a solo trombonist. Several of the songs performed were pieces associated with jazz legend Duke Ellington, a famous pianist, composer and band leader.
These concerts act as a way to recognize Armstrong’s musicians, validating their talents and bringing them the recognition they deserve.
“This semester’s ensemble members have worked hard and have grown individually and collectively,” Reese said. “Many of the works in the concert were chosen specifically to help individuals or sections develop particular skills.”
It seems the ensemble’s hard work paid off. The end of every solo and song was met with thunderous applause from the audience as well as a standing ovation after the concert.
Stanton Dobson, an attendee of the concert, said, “It was animated and very fascinating; I enjoyed it.”
Concerts such as this one can also be fantastic introductions into musical genres that students may not have encountered otherwise.
Brittany Smith, a student familiar with the ensembles, said, “It gives students the opportunity to experience something different because few have been to a jazz concert of any sort.”
Just by existing and performing iconic songs, the ensemble plays into jazz’s rich history. Rising in popularity during the early 20th century, jazz was an integral component of the Harlem Renaissance and is an African-American tradition.
“Jazz is one of the most important American art forms, a unique combination of African and European influences that was created by African-Americans,” said Dr. Reese. “It is an important part of our country’s cultural heritage and an important cultural export.”
Having a jazz ensemble celebrates a part of American history that does not always receive the recognition it deserves. It allows the art form to live on and bring joy to audiences and musicians alike.
However, some feel there is a lack of appreciation for the music department’s contributions.
“The ensembles and choirs at Armstrong do not receive the recognition they deserve,” said Herbie Peterson, president of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a music-based fraternity at Armstrong.
“It is important for the Music Department to receive recognition because of the work the students and faculty put in all semester. Besides practicing and rehearsing for concerts, these students must also learn advanced music theory, which on a rudimentary level is equivalent to the high-level maths and sciences such as calculus three.”
The department is trying new ways to grab the attention of students and faculty: a new pep band is forming and will perform at many campus events. The Phi Mu Alpha fraternity also continues to spread its love of music through philanthropic events and performing in the ensembles.
There may also be a female equivalent to Phi Mu Sinfonia coming to campus. The organization is Sigma Alpha Iota, an international music fraternity that is currently trying to establish a chapter. Women with a strong musical passion are encouraged to contact the interest group.
*Featured image via Armstrong AMT archives