Jazz Enembles Set to Perform
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
West Virginia Wesleyan College’s jazz ensembles will present their annual spring concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26 in the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will feature a wide selection of material from a variety of ensembles.
The Wesleyan Jazz Sextet, under the direction of Professor Curtis Johnson, will perform an eclectic set of standards, jazz standards, and original student compositions. All of the material is student-arranged. Wesleyan’s director of jazz ensembles, Dr. James Moore, is excited about this group’s focus on student leadership.
“I think it says a lot about the quality of both student and instructor that we are able to give the reigns to the students and let them have a real say in the repertoire they prepare and present,” Moore said. “Professor Johnson is a real master at motivating students to reach for musical and creative heights that others might be afraid to try. Wesleyan students are always eager for challenges, and some of these students are writing and arranging tunes that are far beyond their current training right, but their instincts are so good that we are going to continue encouraging them to further their talents.”
The Wesleyan “Big Band” will round out the concert by presenting a set of music from a variety of composers and arrangers of historical significance. Under Moore’s direction, the “Big Band” has reasserted itself as an ensemble of regional notoriety.
“The students have worked very hard semester,” Moore commented. “We learned a vast number of tunes, all of them very challenging, at the beginning of the semester, and then turned on a dime in mid-March and put together a Sinatra/Basie show for an alumni event in Fairmont.”
The ensemble is comprised of 18 music and non-music majors, and will perform works arranged by Bob Florence, Duke Pearson, Frank Foster, John Clayton, and Tadd Dameron.
“The Bob Florence piece is very difficult; and, although the students have only been working on it for three rehearsals, they are really swinging,” Moore said. “I can’t wait for folks to hear it.”
The concert is also special to Moore because he has just passed a milestone in his academic career. Having successfully defended his dissertation on March 29 at the University of Pittsburgh, Moore became the first person in the world to receive a Ph.D. in jazz studies.
“It is really great that I get to cap the year off with this concert,” Moore said.” The PhD in jazz studies at Pitt is the first of its kind — anywhere.”
Moore explained that most terminal degrees in jazz studies are performance degrees. In this case, however, Pitt has led the way in combining composition and scholarship.
“The connections that made through my time at Pitt working with Director of Jazz Studies Nathan Davis have given me access to some of the living legends of jazz music,” Moore said. “I’ve tried to use those contacts to enrich the educational experiences of Wesleyan students.”