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All-Campus Jazz Ensemble, Combo bring diverse majors onto one stage



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Jess Henry, left, director of the All-Campus Jazz Ensemble. The ensemble is a traditional big band that is open to non-music majors. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Non-music and music majors alike will unite tonight under one spotlight for the biannual All-Campus Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo performance.

The Jazz Combo and Jazz Ensemble are offered as classes, and this semester they are directed by Jay Tibbitts and Jess Henry.

“This group is for non-majors, so there is no audition,” Tibbitts said. “This class is great because it gives non-music majors an opportunity to play in a jazz group even when they have decided to study in other areas in 
college.”

Tibbitts, a second year master’s student specializing in Jazz Studies and drum set, said the groups are a good place for IU students who have previous experience equivalent to participating in high school band. He said students who may want a different career path still have a place to refine their craft.

The Jazz Combo meets only once per week, and Tibbitts said it can often be difficult to coordinate with each student and their busy schedules. While many of the students are not in the Jacobs School of Music, he said those who are study audio production or other instruments, not jazz.

“The goal of the group is to help the students learn standard jazz repertoire, learn how to work together like a professional band and overall become better musicians by playing with other talented students and playing different styles authentically and appropriately,” Tibbitts said.

He said the pieces to be played publicly by the Jazz Combo are decided as a group. The Ensemble and Combo work throughout the semester, trying to encapsulate the sound of the original jazz pieces as they were recorded.

Tibbitts said the Jazz Combo will play various well-known jazz pieces, such as Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon

Henry, an associate instructor in the music school’s jazz department, said the All-Campus Jazz Ensemble is relatively new. She described the group as a traditional big band, and they meet weekly.

She said the performance will feature a ballad written by the founder of the Jazz Studies department, Professor David Baker. Baker, a world renowned jazz composer, died this past spring.

Henry said being able to direct the group is a privilege, but before the ensemble’s first rehearsal, she had apprehensions about this semester.

“This was due to the uncertainty of whether or not we would have enough members, and if I would be able to select music our band would be capable of playing and enjoy playing,” Henry said. “But we ended up with more than enough students enrolled in the group, and each one of them brought so much talent and personality that our late night Wednesday rehearsals were something to look forward to each week.”

Henry said the audience should expect to hear familiar tunes from the ensemble varying from big band swing, funk, and Latin Jazz.

“The musicians involved in this are very talented, passionate, and energetic with the music they create, and we hope to see a great turnout at what will be an outstanding concert,” Henry said.

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