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Chamber Jazz Ensemble mixes musical styles

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, students from MUO 155, or Chamber Jazz Ensemble, performed a new style of music to University of Maine students in Minsky Recital Hall.

During the concert, four different ensemble groups displayed unique styles with variations of instrument combinations. Some groups utilized flute or piano, while others used multiple types of saxophones.

In most of the groups, members had the chance to perform solos and show the audience their high musical capacities.

A majority of the songs were jazz-specific arrangements, although some recognizable songs were played such as “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Music lecturer and Director Dan Barrett said this year the chamber jazz ensembles have taken a new direction from previous years.

Previously, there was one large jazz ensemble group, but this semester students are studying small group jazz. Barrett commented that he chamber jazz ensembles give the students a chance to improvise and try jazz combinations.

“They need to play in this setting to make money as professional musicians,” Barrett said. “It’s an essential experience.”

“It is an opportunity to get to play with a small group and have the collective freedom to choose everything about the performance, from the tunes to the styles to who solos on what tune,” Jackson Cromwell, a fifth-year music performance student, said.

“As a professional, you have to play music for others exactly the way they want it,” Cromwell said. With jazz, though, Cromwell said he is able to do what he wants in the moment. The jazz ensemble groups are beneficial for the students because they give them more opportunities to be creative and make their own arrangements, Barrett said.

Students said that Barrett’s flexibility with the music has aided them in growing as musicians.

“[Barrett] has given me a lot of exercises that have helped me as a jazz musician. He is open to anything that the groups want to play and will coach us on anything,” Cromwell said.

Many of the students in MUO 155 have a strong passion for music, whether as a hobby or something they are pursuing as a career.

Sydnie Howard, a first-year music education student, said as a freshman she did not think she would have had enough experience to audition for jazz ensemble. However, a friend told her about chamber jazz and that all she had to do was sign up, and she did so immediately.

“Most of all with music I can be myself. In chamber jazz no one asks me my background. No one judges me. We all come together to play, to have fun, to be musicians and live life the way we enjoy it,” Howard said.

The ensemble groups will be performing on select dates, usually on Monday and Wednesday afternoons in the Memorial Union during the second half of this semester. One group per week will perform during their normal rehearsal times.

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