The Valparaiso University Jazz Ensemble had a mix of old and new in their concert this past Thursday.

The Jazz Ensemble held a concert for the community this past Tuesday in the Valparaiso University Center for the Arts, University Theatre. There was a wide array of music, spanning from slow ballads to fast pieces.

“I thought it was a good selection of music” said Nate McChesney. “It contrasted very nicely from slow ballads to nice, faster works.”

The ensemble was led by conductor and professor Jeffrey Brown. Brown is the instructor of percussion and has been the Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Valparaiso University for the past 25 years.

Brown gave the concert a relaxed atmosphere from the very beginning. Throughout the night, he cracked jokes and had a smile on his face.

The concert featured Benjamin Krause, a current visiting assistant professor of music at Valparaiso University. Being a Valpo graduate himself, Professor Krause felt right at home during the concert.

“It was amazing. Jeffrey Brown has been such a big supporter of me. It felt like coming back into a really supportive place,” said Krause. “Jeff and I got along really well when I was an undergraduate and I’m really happy that he is still here to support me. It felt like being back here as a student really.”

The band performed one of Krause’s works during their concert. Titled “Scumpa’s Waltz”, the piece was not only beautiful, it also had a story behind it. Scumpa is the Romanian word from sweetheart, which is something he learned from his wife.

“My wife is from a Romanian family, so scumpa was a nickname that I picked up from learning some of the language from her,” Krause said.

Not only did the Ensemble perform his piece, but Professor Krause got to conduct the band while they played it.

“That was a challenge in that I don’t consider myself as a conductor, so I didn’t know how that was going to go. It turns out, once you get them started, they know how to hold their beat, so they were not glued to my every signal. It was great fun,” Krause said. “They were really responsive. It felt like I was there playing with them while I was conducting.”

“We were all extremely excited. Many of us have Krause for music theory. When he plays in our music theory class we’re amazed. He blew us all away tonight. He was amazing,” Erica Heggeland, a member of the Jazz Ensemble said.

Another member of the Valparaiso University faculty joined the Ensemble as well. Professor Richard Watson played alongside the Ensemble, and even got a solo of his own. Before he began, Professor Watson explained to the crowed exactly how he found himself in the position he was in.

“I got the call today, about an hour before practice, that we were going to can a large part of the piece. Professor Brown was just going to have me get up there and solo. That’s the kind of spontaneous stuff that we do sometimes,” Watson said.

“I was completely sight reading the rehearsal. That was my first time playing [the music],” Watson said. “You have to learn how to make things happen, and that’s what I try and teach my students.”

Another low brass soloist during the concert was student Paul Flaten. He is a trombone player in the Ensemble and is thought very highly of by Professor Watson.

“I think he was amazing. He has good instincts. It’s like a stream of consciousness. He knows how to fit things in, but he’s not locked down to the time,” Watson said. “He showed great jazz feed and a lack of complete caring about being locked into a time frame.”

Contact Katie Nickolaou at torch@valpo.edu.

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