By Amanda Lehnerd
The Youngstown State University’s Jazz Ensemble had their first concert of the fall season on Monday in the Chestnut Room in Kilcawley Center.
The Jazz Ensemble started preparing for their first performance at the start of the fall semester. Kent Engelhardt, a professor at the Dana School of Music, selectively chose the pieces that were performed at the first concert.
“I have ideas about the type of music and things I want all my students to have experience with,” Engelhardt said. “I wanted to do something by Frank Foster, but I knew I wanted to choose the right piece to fit the personalities of the students.”
Stephen Spencer, Jazz Ensemble lead trombone player, said the music he learns for Jazz Ensemble is important and relevant to his music studies.
“Engelhardt always picks tunes that are really good for us to learn. The music allows us to have fun,” Spencer said. “He always gives us relevant music to learn, which is great.”
The Jazz Ensemble was split into two sections, Jazz Ensemble 1 and 2. The first group is the younger section of Jazz Ensemble, and the second group is the more advanced section.
The advanced group’s first weeks of the semester were spent reading music and trying different options to see what would work for their performance. Two weeks before the first show, they narrowed down which five pieces would be in the set.
“The younger group played music by Sammy Nestico and Ernie Wilkins that was reconstructed from a university research council grant,” Engelhardt said. “The more advanced band played a rhythm and blues take on ‘Georgia On My Mind.’ The advanced group has a larger variety than the younger group.”
Engelhardt said that every performance Jazz Ensemble does is a little different than the others. There is always a new selection of music, which allows for people to attend each show and still hear new music.
“Tonight’s performance is filled with improvised solos that were constructed for tonight only,” Engelhardt said. “One of the skills essential to jazz is improvising, and that was demonstrated in tonight’s performance.”
The Jazz Ensemble had around 10 people playing solos within a band of 17. Many of the solos represented the skills of improvising that Engelhardt finds important.
“I tell our students; I want us to swing and be as musical as we can and show our passion. Perfect pieces need passion, and perfect pieces do not need to sound like a machine,” Engelhardt said. “A humanistic feel and passion that includes good technical aspects are a great balance.”
Justin Randall, a trumpet player in Jazz Ensemble, said that it has provided him with some great opportunities and is a great group to be a part of.
“The Jazz Ensemble has given me a lot of great musical moments and has been a pleasure to be a part of the past four years,” Randall said. “Playing music with so many different people and professors over the years has been memorable and helped me progress as a musician.”