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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

All that jazz

Marquette students play a Jazz Band concert in the Varsity Theater last year. Photo courtesy of Kathy Wierzchowski.

Jazz music is an age-old expression of feeling and soul. For the students in the two big band ensembles of Marquette’s Jazz Band, a decade-old tradition, it’s a way to expose themselves to a special part of American history.

On Nov. 4, the Jazz Band will play a free performance at the Union Sports Annex, in hopes of exposing Marquette to all live jazz music has to offer. This is the first of two Jazz Band performances as part of the Annex Concert Series this year.

Marquette’s Jazz Band has stayed relatively under the radar, in comparison to other campus ensembles like Pep Band, the Wind Ensemble and the Symphonic Band. They’ve found gigs that cater to their strengths — be they sporting events or prestigious performances — but the Jazz Band finds itself somewhere between casual and swanky.

Both ensembles combined consist of about 45 students, all with different years, majors and interests — a true testament to the range of jazz music.

“The Jazz Band is really a fantastic group that plays amazingly well,” said Erik Janners, director of music at Marquette.

Janners has worked with Marquette’s ensembles since 2007. During his tenure, the size of the Jazz Band has doubled. Janners said his involvement with the Jazz Band has been a wonderful experience, mostly because of the positive energy surrounding the students and the music they play.

Unlike classical pieces, jazz allows musicians and listeners alike to create and embrace their own style.

“Students that are in Jazz Band have a really good time,” he said. “It broadens their horizons on a host of issues.”

Jazz Band members Michael Thorn, a junior in the College of Engineering, and Joseph Burclaff, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, both have demanding majors. Thorn, a biomedical engineering major, and Burclaff, a biochemistry major, view Jazz Band as an escape from the everyday stress of class and college.

“Jazz Band gives me an outlet,” said Thorn, a trombone player. “Jazz is the few hours a week I get to advance my musical career.”

Thorn has been playing the trombone since elementary school, but has only been with the Jazz Band since last year.

“My favorite style is jazz,” he said. “I have a lot of fun with it. It’s kind of a more low-key band, but you still get to challenge yourself.”

Bandmate Burclaff, a trumpet player, feels that same sentiment. What Jazz Band lacks in mainstream appeal, it makes up for in personality.

“I like how jazz is so individual and personal,” Burclaff said. “You can do your own thing.”

Burclaff has been playing with the Jazz Band for three years, yet he said he feels students on campus barely know anything about them.

“It’s not as big of an appeal,” he said. “People just think we do our own thing, which is one of the reasons why we are doing the Annex performance.”

The Jazz Band spends the majority of the year practicing for two large concerts at the Varsity Theater.  A lot of hard work goes into preparing for these events, but the upcoming Annex performance is an opportunity for more exposure and a chance to attract more students.

“Jazz is very entertaining music,” Janners said. “You don’t have to pay attention very closely to enjoy it. It’s meant for dancing.”

The Annex provides the ensembles the perfect atmosphere for the Marquette audience. Some students may not feel inclined to sit in the Varsity and listen to jazz, and many performers also feel as if that’s not the right venue. At the Annex, audience members can dance, eat and enjoy themselves while listening to music that is meant to be played in a relaxed setting.

“Jazz music is America’s only authentic musical form,” Janners said. “I think that jazz is a great style for students to begin to look beyond pop music and broaden their horizon into other areas.”

Jazz is a genre of music that can appeal to almost any demographic. The fusion of funk, Latin, swing and blues creates sounds that many audience members can appreciate. The Jazz Band tries to bring that variety to every one of its performances.

“I think jazz is something that’s very free and open to interpretation,” Thorn said. “You get to have fun with it. Jazz is the one time you get to modify things.”

Members of the Jazz Band have developed a strong community that continues to improve their sound every time they play. Along with members’ dedication, playing together creates a sense of trust. Jazz is such an individual style, so working together is a huge part of the Jazz Band’s success.

“There’s a lot of communication that has to go along between players,” Janners said. “Players perform solos and can just go with the spirit of the original tune.”

The essence of jazz music is freedom and optimism.  No two performances are alike, and the Jazz Band plans on bringing that energy to the Annex.

Janners wants students and other members of the Marquette community to seek out the art that has been on campus for years.

“No matter how much music you listen to, nothing is the same as seeing artists perform live.”

Marquette’s Jazz Band will perform at the Union Sports Annex on Friday, Nov. 4 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

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