Jazz Band performs at acclaimed North Texas Festival
When it comes to bowl games and music, Purdue just seems to have a love affair with Texas. Following on the heels of the Marching Band’s Sun Bowl appearance in El Paso, the Purdue Jazz Band visits the Lone Star State for a command performance at the North Texas Jazz Festival in suburban Dallas in April 1-3.
“Just being invited to this prestigious festival means you’re a winner,” says Dr. Mo Trout, who’s excited to take the department’s top jazz band to his alma mater and show it off.
The University of North Texas, which sponsors the festival, is a Mecca for jazz musicians. It was the first university to begin offering a degree in jazz in the 1950s, and for 20 years was one of the only universities in the United States serious about jazz education.
Because of North Texas’ influence, the Dallas-Denton-Fort Worth area became “a very vibrant, very involved jazz scene,” Trout says. In their heydays, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich all enjoyed special relationships with the University of North Texas.
“It became a breeding ground for jazz musicians. And it opens doors in the jazz community if you went there,” adds Trout, a Texas native who got his MM and PhD degrees from North Texas.
For a university with such a long and prestigious reputation, staging a jazz festival is something relatively new. The North Texas Jazz Festival is just five years old (compared to Purdue’s which turned 15 this year).
But, bringing their reputation to festival planning, guaranteed the festival a high profile right off the bat. You can’t just sign up, pay your money and go. You have to make audition tapes and wait to see if you’re talented enough to be accepted. The festival boasts just one stage and only the cream of university, high school and middle school bands get to attend. Bands from all corners of the United States and Hawaii vie for acceptance. Less than a dozen college bands are accepted each year.
Some of the other universities accepted for 2005 include Illinois, Southern Mississippi, Nebraska, Texas Southern and Texas Arlington.
Trout always wanted to take the Purdue Jazz Band to his home state – his mother and two sisters still live in the greater Dallas area – and felt this was the year to do it.
“Whenever you go someplace new you want to take your best. Four years ago we had a strong freshman class and they’ve continued to be a strong nucleus. They’ve been playing together a long time and have reached their prime. They’re really fun to work with,” says Trout.
At the Festival, the Purdue Jazz Band will perform a 30-minute set on the festival stage then retire to an adjacent room to work with adjudicators. At the end of the day, one college band will be chosen for a cash award and to share the stage at the evening concert with the North Texas’ premiere One O’Clock Jazz Band.
Purdue will be the only university bringing a band composed of non-music majors. “I have no conception that we’ll go out there and blow them away. But I think we can hold our own. This band has a lot of strong points,” says Trout.
Among the strong points are the solo talents of players like saxmen Cosmos Krejci, Alex Chiaghana and Jake Noparstak, trumpeter Alex Fenske, guitarist Kevin Chin and singer Courtney Rohen. Trout wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them walk away with an individual award.
The band is in the process of picking out tunes for their festival set. “You want to play things that focus on the ensemble and strong points of the band. We also want to feature our many strong soloists because that’s what jazz is about. Then you balance it with things that make an interesting program,” Trout says.
Acceptance into the festival changed the Spring 2005 concert line-up at Purdue. It forced the cancellation of the April 2 jazz concert because the musicians will be in Dallas at that time. That program has been moved to Thursday, March 10, which will be a send-off for the Purdue Jazz Band. Many of the festival pieces will be presented at that concert which also features the Lab Jazz Band and Concert Jazz Band.*EDITOR’S NOTE: Travel like this is so essential for spreading the word about Purdue and excellence of music going on here, but it is expensive. Several friends and alums of Purdue band department have risen to the financial challenge of helping the band make this trip and we are very grateful for their support. If you would like to contribute to that effort please contact Reid Riccardi, our Band Development Liaison at (765) 496-2406.