By Hailey Rogenski
The Youngstown State University Contemporary Ensemble hopes for more opportunities to perform in the near future. The Contemporary Ensemble is a musical performance group consisting of drums, horns, bass guitar and vocals, which tries not to limit itself to just one variety of music.
The ensemble’s only guitarist, Eric Thompson, a junior music recording major, has practiced music since the age of 11. Outside of the ensemble, he performs in a band called Astronauts Exposed, as well as in a few other bands.
“I hope to work in studios, do session guitar work and play gigs,” Thompson said.
The ensemble began in 2019, but it hasn’t held any live concerts recently due to pandemic restrictions.
“I hope we can play live shows in the future,” Thompson said. “I’ve only been able to play one live concert with the ensemble.”
He said unlike most music groups at YSU, the ensemble plays a variety of genres.
“One of the nice things about the contemporary ensemble is the fact that we aren’t really pinholed into one specific genre,” Thompson said. “We’ve played anything from blues to rock, some pop stuff. We have an Instagram where we post weekly and do anything from pop to guitar licks.”
Chase Taylor is a saxophone performance graduate student and the saxophonist for the ensemble. He has 15 years of experience. Outside of the ensemble, he performed in church groups, at Christmas shows and even toured with country singer Tim Shelton.
“We have a couple videos of past concerts on YouTube and on Facebook through the Dana School of Music, and also on Facebook through the YSU Jazz Society page we have a few recordings,” Taylor said.
The group hasn’t had much experience with live performances, he said.
“The second semester, we were fortunate enough to play at one concert, and then everything got shut down by COVID and we transitioned to an online setting,” Taylor said.
John Anthony, the director of the YSU contemporary ensemble and a music teacher for Roosevelt Elementary School in McDonald, Ohio, said he wanted to give students an opportunity to play different genres of music.
“I was here in grad school from 2010-2012 and a lot of the students here were very interested in doing something outside of the jazz and classical world,” Anthony said. “Throughout the last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot of students come to YSU where there has been more interest in other styles of music besides jazz and classical.”
In addition to being the adviser, Anthony teaches music classes at YSU. He said he often leaves things in the hands of the ensemble. He also said the ensemble students take on a lot of leadership.
“I’ve been very lucky to see a lot of leadership grow, and a lot of the work that normally an ensemble director would do has been placed on them,” Anthony said. “I’ve been monitoring a lot more than really having to take over everything.”
Though they don’t have any performances in the near future, the contemporary ensemble posts performance content on social media.