Students Take the Spotlight

Jazz students at SUNY New Paltz performed three separate ensemble concerts on Monday, April 4 and Tuesday, April 5 at Studley Theatre, presented by the college’s music department.

On Monday, two ensembles performed similar in arrangement and instrumentals yet each with a musical style of their own.

The first performance, Ensemble II, saw students on tenor saxophone, trumpet, guitar, piano, bass and drums. Some moments of the performance were awkward, but the ensemble came together when different musicians responded to each other’s energy.

The group performed six songs, each chock full of solos and, well, jazz of course. Some selections included “Theme for Ernie” by Fred Lacey, a slow, melodious tune, and “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, a dance club song. Both songs were refreshing among a lineup of similar-sounding jazz tunes. Each song was played with heart, and some even included conservational improvisation. The group finished strong with the upbeat tune “Hot’n Tot” by John Scofield, which felt straight out of the film “Ocean’s Eleven.”

“I was a nervous wreck as usual,” said third-year undeclared student Salvador Santana, the drummer. “But we ended up having a good time playing some good music.”

The next and last performance of the night was Ensemble I, comprised of jazz students on tenor saxophone, trumpet, guitar, acoustic and electric piano, bass, drums and percussion. This group was like a boy band, with each musician building off of each other’s suave melodies. Aside from technical difficulties, this performance was also entertaining.

The group played five songs, featuring a handful of solos and interesting percussion, like  bongos, shaker and cowbell that contributed unique sounds. This ensemble played more upbeat tunes in contrast to the slower, more “big band” songs by Ensemble II. The ensemble performed “The Cost of Living” beautifully, playing up the smooth melody and talented, concentrated solos. As a finale, the ensemble exploded with “Tutu” by Marcus Miller, highlighting trumpet versus saxophone and guitar battles that were quite rock n’ roll.

“I think we came together in the end … let’s leave it at that,” said bass player and third-year jazz performance major Nick Telesca.

Ensemble III performed the following day.

Adjunct jazz professor Jeff Siegel had only positive feedback about his students. Siegel, who teaches jazz drums, coached all three ensembles. To select performers, he auditioned all of the students at the start of the semester and broke them into groups as he saw fit. The groups rehearsed twice a week, once with their coach and once on their own. Siegel was proud of the progress his students made.

“I’ve been blessed with great kids,” he said.

Siegel said he chose most of the songs performed by the ensembles. However, the groups took the music into their own hands, Siegel said.

“They evolved the music into their own playing,” he said. “It’s a team effort, so one weak link causes the whole to fall apart, but they all did their homework.”

Although the jazz ensembles ended this week, music lovers can catch a few more concerts at Studley Theatre before the semester ends. The Department of Music will host the American Masters Choral Concert on Tuesday, April 12 at 8 p.m.