By Alexis Rufener
Youngstown State University’s jazz ensembles performed in the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center Monday, bringing the sounds of 11 different pieces composed by artists such as Thad Jones and Horace Silver.
The concert featured pieces performed by Jazz Ensemble 1 and Jazz Ensemble 2, as well as Contemporary Ensemble — all directed by Alton Merrell, assistant professor of jazz studies.
Merrell said he likes working with students, especially when it comes to teaching and performing jazz.
“All of the different hats that I would wear are opportunities to teach,” Merrell said. “I like working with students to discover new music and creative possibilities. Musically, as a director, you have the freedom or liberty to do that, and to share … [your] own experiences with them. I like the fact that through jazz, student musicians can cultivate their musical creativity. I’ve seen students grow and improve … their improvisational skills, their understanding of jazz and their understanding of the history of jazz.”
Ian Theiss, junior performance major at YSU, shared his own definition of jazz, his experience with how he got introduced into the world of jazz and why he loves the art.
“It’s a way to express yourself. Through improvisation and playing jazz, you learn to speak through your instrument — what’s on your mind, what you want to say,” Theiss said. “One day you’re angry — you can play like a really fast angry bee bop. And if one day you’re really sad, you can put on some blues. It’s healing music.”