Fall Jazz Festival enters its eleventh year

Ben Simon
Contributing Writer

If you’re a fan of jazz, or just like watching fellow students perform, then the VCU Fall Jazz Festival is the event for you. The event is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 10, and will consist of three eclectic sets performed by both students and faculty.

The VCU Jazz department started the festival in 2002, in celebration of real estate developer W. E. Singleton’s pledge of $2 million to the Jazz program. Due to the positive reception of the event, members of the Jazz department decided to make it an annual occurrence.

“It’s great to have … VCU students and faculty and staff come and support their own,” said Antonio Garcia, director of VCU Jazz Studies. “A live music concert, particularly a live jazz concert, has a level of interaction between the audience and listener that may not be as evident in some other kinds of music.”

During a jazz performance, Garcia said there is an energy in the room that is like no other.

“There’s a vibe that happens when you get to experience the engine of a big band moving together,” he said. “We really want to feel that synergy between audience and performers at the Fall Jazz Festival.”

Both Jazz Orchestras are comprised of 18 or 19 members, which includes saxophonists, trombonists, trumpeters, guitarists, pianists, bassists and drummers. The faculty group, in contrast, typically has around six or seven members.

Each ensemble has a different focus. While Jazz Orchestra 2 plays mostly formative jazz, Jazz Orchestra 1 performs more contemporary works. As for the faculty ensemble, “We perform whatever strikes us at the time,” Garcia said.

Senior Martha Purvis, who plays bass trombone for Jazz Orchestra 2 and lead trombone for Jazz Orchestra 1, expressed her excitement at the upcoming concert.

“I think it’s going to be great. There’s a lot of stylistic variation in the pieces that both the ensembles are playing,” she said.

Purvis, while not a Jazz major, plays an active role in the department.

“My classical professor said that they needed trombonists, and he sort of made me audition. I didn’t know anything about jazz … I didn’t really want to do it,” she said.

Despite an admittedly flawed audition, Purvis got a solo chair in Jazz Orchestra 2.

“(It) totally changed everything about my playing and about how I saw music,” she said. “Even though I was terrified at first, I really enjoyed it, and I became a member of Jazz Orchestra 1.”

The Fall Jazz Festival starts at 8 p.m. in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall at the W. E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free for students with a valid VCU ID. General admission tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

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