In 1969, West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Professor of Music, Dr. David Milburn, stepped out of the traditional realms of college music programs and initiated the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble. On November 15-16, alumni musicians across five decades will return to the Wesleyan campus to celebrate 50 years of the College’s jazz ensemble.
The group, which has always included both music and non-music majors, has enjoyed a rich history with tours throughout the United States and international countries. The WVWC Jazz Ensemble traveled as United States Goodwill Ambassadors, performing in some of the finest concert halls in Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Russia. In 1979 and 1984, the group was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Alumni musicians have enjoyed careers as solo recording artists and professional musicians in the entertainment field and military bands, such as “The President’s Own.” Many music graduates have served as professional educators and band directors in middle and high schools across the country while other jazz ensemble alumni have enjoyed career success in business, engineering, law, medicine, and public relations.
Today, the Wesleyan jazz ensemble consists of 18 members and performs at high schools throughout the region. Members also play with professional artists in Pittsburgh jazz clubs.
The 50th Reunion Weekend activities include rehearsals and jam sessions Friday and Saturday and will culminate with a special concert on Saturday at 7 pm in Culpepper Auditorium in the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts. That concert will feature two groups: the Dr. David Milburn era group, under the direction of Neil Randolph ’78, and the modern day group, led by current director Dr. James Moore, dean of the faculty and chief academic officer. The concert will be preceded by a “WVWC Jazz Ensemble Memories,” at 6:30 pm. Admission to the concert is free and open to the public.