By Marah J. Morrison
The Youngstown State University Jazz Combos played from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on March 23. The jazz combinations consisted of a jazz quintet, septet, sextet and quartet and included music pieces some of the players conducted themselves.
Kent J. Engelhardt, coordinator and professor of Jazz Studies, has been teaching at the Dana School of Music since 1991. Engelhardt said the YSU Jazz Combos are at the center of their jazz performance degree. The professor said the jazz combos started as part of the curriculum in 1994 and students are always anxious to be a part of it.
“At the time, we thought it was an integral experience that was missing from the jazz curriculum,” Engelhardt said. “It was necessary to create the course and have it approved by curriculum committees, the music faculty, the Dean and the faculty senate.”
Engelhardt said students get their experience by performing in smaller groups in the jazz combinations, which allows students to express individuality, creativity, composition and so forth through performance.
“The experience of being a performer in one of the concerts is very close to a real world experience,” Engelhardt said. “The experience prepares them for the types of engagements that may be available when they leave YSU.”
Hobie Butcher, a music and business major and drummer in the jazz quartet, said every time they get to play in public, it’s a good thing.
“We go to school to do a certain thing,” Butcher said, “and these concerts benefit us because we get to play in front of people.”
Butcher said the concerts demonstrate what the students do in class twice a week. The percussionist, who’s been playing drums since age four, said he enjoys jamming with his friends.
“I think being a jazz student here and being able to interact with other instrumentalists and musicians is what I’m going to take the most out of being here,” Butcher said, “… overall just being able to say that I performed with the other top notch jazz musicians in the area.”
Justin Randall, a jazz performance major and trumpet player, was also featured in the jazz quartet. Randall said, from a musical standpoint, interacting among different musicians and collaborating are important to him.
“It’s also a really good networking kind of deal with all of my professors and the people that I have gigged with around here,” Randall said.
Randall started playing the trumpet in fifth grade and started playing jazz music his senior year of high school.
Alex Ayers, a jazz studies major and piano player that was featured in the jazz quartet, said this gives a lot of students an opportunity to showcase what they’ve been doing.
Ayers has been playing piano since middle school and started getting serious about jazz music halfway through high school. The pianist also said that participants have to adapt their style to the people they are playing with.
“A lot of the students here don’t really get a chance to gig outside of school,” Ayers said. “I think it’s great for the concerts to be here so we can all check on how everyone’s doing.”
For upcoming events, visit the Dana School of Music’s website at www.ysu.edu or call 330-941-3636.