Elon University’s Jazz Ensemble will perform its fall concert, “American Standardization,” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in McCrary Theatre. Audiences will travel back to the 1900s and listen to America’s historical musical art form — jazz — as the ensemble performs pieces from the Great American Songbook, which consists of popular American songs from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Matt Buckmaster, associate professor of music and education and the director of the jazz ensemble, said the songs performed are called “standards” because they are performed so often they are easily recognizable to most jazz fans. 

“Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald are some of the great jazz singers who have made these iconic tunes,” Buckmaster said. “The program is comprised of songs that the audience will recognize, maybe from hearing the music in an elevator or in a waiting room.”

The concert will feature classics such as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and a jazz version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” It will also include vocal performances by students and associate professor of music Stephen Futrell, a professionally trained vocalist. 

Typically, the ensemble performs a wide range of jazz music, but this concert focuses on jazz standards from the 1940s to 1960s. Buckmaster will also include later songs to cover the entire age of jazz music, which is a time period that only spans about 110 years, as jazz is still considered a relatively new art form.

The Jazz Ensemble is an audition-based group that has been in existence since the 1950s. Originally named the Emanons, or ‘no name’ backwards, the group would tour throughout the East Coast recruiting prospective students.

Today, the ensemble stays on campus performing jazz, while holding performances throughout the year — such as concerts outside Lakeside and a Mardi Gras performance in McBride Gathering Space.

The ensemble consists of students in all grades playing five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, a rhythm section, piano, guitar and percussion.

Buckmaster believes jazz is the United States’ musical art form and said it is one of the truly U.S. things about the nation and culture.

“There is a sense of national pride about jazz,” Buckmaster said. “From the melding of different cultures, people, and traditions came this art music.”

Freshman Rachel Hopkins learned the Jazz Ensemble was in need of a trumpet player and decided to audition. Hopkins said that she enjoys the casual environment of the Jazz Ensemble and that it is a much smaller group than the other ensembles she is a member of, including marching band and wind ensemble.

In addition to the upcoming concert, the ensemble will hold its 20th anniversary Jazz Festival in February, bringing in local middle and high school jazz ensembles to campus. Professional clinicians will also attend the festival to teach master classes, and come together with the musicians for a final performance concert.

The group will soon be preparing for an international performance over the summer. They will be traveling to Italy in June and performing at major jazz festivals. Next semester will be focused on raising funds for their summer tour and utilizing their rehearsal times for practice.

“We are calling it the ‘Jazz Ambassador Tour’ because we are going to be cultural ambassadors of not only Elon but the whole United States,” Buckmaster said.

Sophomore Brandon Atwell is in his third semester as a member of the Jazz Ensemble. He believes the group is unique from the other five ensembles he is a part of at Elon. 

“It’s more classical style music and a lot smaller than the other ensembles I’m involved in,” Atwell said. “There’s a lot more collaboration between all the students because of the group’s smaller size.”

Atwell, a music performance major and percussionist, spends the majority of his rehearsal time practicing by himself, but the interaction with the other musicians is what makes the ensemble fun for him.

“Being in the Jazz Ensemble is a great chance to go play the music that I love to play with other people,” Atwell said.

Buckmaster hopes that “American Standardization” will promote a greater appreciation for jazz as an U.S. art form.

“In the United States, we sometimes forget that we have a culture and rich heritage, focusing on other things like politics, economics, and business,” Buckmaster said. “Those are all very important, but there are also rich artistic traditions that we should be proud of.”


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