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UMaine’s School of Performing Arts holds second Jazz Night of the semester

On Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m., the University of Maine’s School of Performing Arts Division of Music held their second Jazz Night of the semester in the Minsky Recital Hall. The performance was led by directors Mike Bennett and Scott Cleveland. It was open to the public for free, as well as live streamed on the Jazz Studies at UMaine Facebook page.

The performance featured four ensembles and each played three different jazz songs. Featured instruments included the tenor and alto saxophone, piano, drums, trumpet, guitar and various bass instruments. 

Cleveland graduated from Berklee College of Music with a bachelor’s in music. He holds a master’s degree in music with a concentration in composition from the University of MassachusettsLowell as well. He coached two of the ensembles that performed at Jazz Night, and he even performed himself on piano in the third ensemble. 

“The thing I find most satisfying is the gelling of the ensemble,” Cleveland said. “It’s kind of like an organic unit the way it blends, mixes and forms its own kind of identity.”

First-year UMaine student Isaac Atkinson performed in the fourth ensemble directed by Cleveland on Jazz Night. 

I’m doing Jazz Night simply because I like to play jazz,” Atkinson said. “It’s a very fulfilling experience. There’s nothing quite like a band where you really gel with the other musicians, and I feel that sort of musical connection in the jazz bands I’m in. Scott is a great coach. He’s very supportive and encouraging. He’s a lot more hands-on than other combo instructors from what I’ve noticed.”

Despite being a wildlife ecology student, music has always been part of Atkinson’s life.

I am a musician, although my major is wildlife ecology,” Atkinson said. “I’ve been a musician for most of my life, and it’s a quintessential part of my identity. I also like astronomy, physics and math.”

Another student who performed in the third ensemble directed by Cleveland was second-year UMaine student Dana Reynolds. Reynolds is studying music education and vocal performance with a vocal focus. She hopes the audience takes away a feel for the music and just overall enjoyment from the music that is created.

“The number one word that comes to mind is groove,” Reynolds said. “Life so often is a rat race, and that’s why jazz is so awesome because it kind of takes you back to a zen, homeostasis groove, and that’s what I hope the audience takes away from this experience.”

This experience was new for Reynolds, and one she will cherish from here on out.

“This is my first time doing a jazz combo, so this is putting my foot into the world of jazz,” Reynolds said. “It’s so cool because jazz combos in general are much more of a laid back, artistic way of doing music, whereas other large group ensembles can be more restricting creatively. This was just a time to do our thing and spread our wings.”

Cleveland enjoyed working with Atkinson and Reynolds, along with all his other students. Each student had different levels of talent and learning styles, allowing for a mix of different sounds to be created.

“What’s been a joy about working with Isaac [Atkinson] is that he’s an advanced student already so I can fine tune what he does and he responds well to instruction,” Cleveland said. “With Dana [Reynolds], she’s a singer and trumpet player who’s never really played jazz on trumpet. What’s great about her, though, is that she’s a really hard worker and a very eager learner who’s very teachable.”

Cleveland hopes the audience will discover a new kind of art form and artistic excellence that they haven’t experienced before.

“When you come to hear authentic jazz, you’re always going to hear something new and it’s never exactly the same,” Cleveland said.

The third and final Jazz Night of the semester will be held on Dec. 1 in the Minsky Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the School of Performing Arts and all of their upcoming events, visit

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