Jazz band has been the most recent ensemble to enter the musical community at EMU. Senior Harrison Horst worked with the now director Robert Curry last December to revitalize the Jazz Band on campus and form it into a larger group. Previously, the band had been a small jazz combo, but Horst and Curry found other interested students and worked to establish a larger jazz group on campus.
“I’ve been really impressed with the growth of the jazz band through these last two semesters,” said Horst. “I think it took a little while to find our bearing last semester, but after a year in, we’ve had opportunities to play in many different settings, and I think that has been really important for us to keep learning and pushing ourselves.”
Sophomore Joseph Harder also appreciates the transition to a larger jazz group. “I joined the jazz band first semester of my freshman year,” Harder said. “At that point it was just a small combo group. The following semester, Bob Curry … replaced the combo with a big band. I very much enjoyed this simply due to the wider variety of playing styles it made available to me.”
The band has also become a place to build relationships. “I have many good friendships within [the band],” said first-year Gwen Mallow, “and [the variety] of students offers many different perspective to take into account.”
The band is now 16 musicians strong and is composed of a wide range of students. “A few of the students had not played jazz before and most [are] not music majors,” director Robert Curry said, “but they were interested in playing jazz.” This variety of musicians gives the band interesting social and musical dynamics. Students who have not played in a jazz band before are able to learn from those who played through high school, and the group gives all students a firm foundation and background in jazz music for the future.
“The re-installation of an EMU big band,” said Horst, “opened the door for more potential musicians to be involved with a special type of ensemble, and it also gave the members of the group enough background in jazz to allow them to start splitting off into impromptu combo groups.”
Students will be well-equipped after learning with the jazz group. “One of my goals [is] to have everybody improvise. Improvisation is close to the heart of jazz,” Curry said, “and we spend time nearly every rehearsal practicing improvisation or techniques to use in improvising.”
There are high hopes for the future now that the band is firmly established as a permanent fixture in the EMU community. Curry has several plans, such as hosting a guest soloist every year, organizing and throwing a big band swing dance on campus, and fostering opportunities for students to start small jazz combos.