Jazz by the Bay: SPSCC Jazz Ensemble Summer Concert

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Jazz by the Bay: SPSCC Jazz Ensemble Summer Concert

SPSCC Summer Jazz Ensemble photo by Richard Lopez

Saturday, August 20, 6pm
Port Plaza, 701 Columbia St NW, Olympia
Free to the public

The summer edition of the South Puget Sound Community College Jazz Ensemble class performs a variety of jazz tunes at Olympia’s Port Plaza, a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking Bud Bay, on Saturday, August 20. This free performance highlights the ensemble’s impressive development over the course of their summer term.

This SPSCC Jazz Ensemble class, the first ever to be offered in the summer, was specifically requested by the students in order to continue the momentum of the previous quarter. In class, the students prepare for the August 20 performance using band charts and their developing improvisation skills. Introduction to music theory as it pertains to jazz music helps to tie everything together. The class is open to all community members, including music educators who can earn clock hours through the joint collaboration of the Washington Music Educators Association and SPSCC. The band plays several styles of jazz, including Latin Jazz, swing, funk, and rock.

The jazz program at SPSCC was revitalized by President Timothy Stokes in the fall of 2013. Since then, students from The Evergreen State College, SPSCC, and the surrounding community (high schoolers to senior citizens) have participated in the ensemble. It’s a unique opportunity for anyone who is interested in learning how to play jazz.

Being a music student in the jazz ensemble is not an isolated adventure. Richard Lopez, Music Director of the ensemble, says it’s like a sports team; each musician has his own voice that contributes to the whole. Lopez, who has a long history of stage band ensemble leadership and performance, is dedicated to music education. He is thrilled to see growing interest in the jazz program. Along with learning chart-reading skills, the students are encouraged to create and arrange original compositions, and get to experience the excitement of the ensemble performing their work in front of a larger community.

Matt Powell, current jazz ensemble student who has played guitar all his life in schools, church, and various bands, says, “I love playing with the big band, sharing my passion for jazz music, and watching other band members flower and develop their skills.”

Mary Griffin, on the other hand, says, “I picked up the clarinet at 50 and the saxophone only a month before starting the jazz ensemble in 2014.” Griffin has attained her goal of being asked to play in a swing band, but still wants to become more proficient at reading music and improvising.

Other jazz ensemble students have come back to playing their instruments after many years off while they raised families, worked, or followed other pursuits.

So, what would jazz ensemble students say to someone considering joining the class?

“Just do it,” says Powell, “because if you are asking questions, you probably want to.”

“Give it a try!” adds pianist Margi Carlson. “Stick with it and you will be amazed how your music skills and knowledge will improve and grow.”

–Ed., courtesy of Judy Lindlauf, on behalf of SPSCC Jazz Ensemble