Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

All Jazzed Up: Fall Jazz Concert Brightens Chism

Over the past few weeks, Chism Auditorium has been frequented by students and faculty alike to watch a number of end-of-semester performances. On Nov. 9, around 250 people watched Jazz Ensembles I and II perform six unique pieces. Directed by Associate Professor of Music Doug Scarborough and Lecturer of Music Gary Gemberling, the ensembles each consisted of roughly 20 students with different musical backgrounds and past experiences.

The program consisted of a total of 12 diverse compositions, which included some traditional jazz, but also included modern jazz, neo-soul, R&B, rock and Armenian jazz. 

Director of Jazz Studies Doug Scarborough, who also refers to himself as “The Jazz Guy,” worked with the ensembles during the semester to create a final product for the students to showcase.

“We were always working towards this concert, we’re playing all kinds of different songs and we’re seeing what works,” Scarborough said. “It’s always about elevating their skills and elevating their ability as players, as listeners, as all-around musicians.”

Sophomore Johanna Duncan played bass at this year’s Ensemble II concert and is also involved in other jazz groups on campus. For her, the semester built around the concert was an experimental process.

“It’s trial and error of what sounds good with this particular ensemble and seeing what works for us,” Duncan said.

The concert takes place each year near the end of the semester but depending on the ensemble, the concert can take different forms. This year, Ensemble II had a total of five guitarists and five vocalists, creating a unique dynamic that is unusual for most jazz ensembles. 

“Each year, I’ve got certain talented people in certain roles that I know to feature them on certain styles that challenge them, but will also be in their wheelhouse,” Scarborough said.

Duncan highlights the diversity within Jazz Ensemble II as one of the important factors when interacting with the group since many students are new to performing with others. Duncan explained that building a community within an ensemble as crucial to overall cohesion.

“For some students, it’s their first time performing in front of a big crowd or in a big ensemble, so it’s cool to experience that with people and talk to people who have different experiences and come together and support each other,” Duncan said.

Jack Allard, a senior drummer in Jazz Ensemble I who describes playing with jazz groups at Whitman as “a lifestyle,” finds the experience of playing with a group to be an incredibly educational experience and a way to personally improve his own skills.

“I’ve had the opportunity to play with others multiple times a week and I have drastically improved because of that,” Allard said. 

Scarborough sees this type of improvement in many students as a director and advisor. For Scarborough, students’ development throughout their time at Whitman is something that he appreciates and looks forward to seeing. 

“I love watching the arc of a student when they come in as a freshman who is a bit quiet and unsure to a senior who knows what’s going on and they’re really about to launch into a career,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough also encourages his students to begin taking on new roles and responsibilities as they become more experienced. These responsibilities include leading rehearsals, providing constructive feedback to other students and working with the group to achieve the best result for everyone. 

“That [directing] is a lot of things, it’s musical decisions, but it’s also more than that: It’s personal skills, it’s cooperation, it’s time management, it’s scheduling,” Scarborough said. “I take great joy in facilitating that, and I feel like the better I do my job, the more I become invisible.”

For Allard, playing the jazz ensemble is an educational experience as well as a satisfying and pleasurable experience. To him, music is also an opportunity to escape from other on-campus responsibilities.

“For being in this point in our lives where we’re very overburdened with college work, it’s like for an hour and 2o minutes we’re going to put all of our homework aside and we’re just gonna play music together,” Allard said.

Looking forward to the rest of the academic year, Scarborough is incredibly hopeful for the future of jazz groups at Whitman, entirely confident in his students and their abilities to perform, as they’ve done throughout the semester at concerts, campaign launches, paid gigs and more.

“Next semester is really exciting because we [have] a lot of seniors, so the group is poised to be the best they’ve ever been,” Scarborough said. “They know each other so well and they know the music so well.”

The rest of the semester will be full of musical opportunities for jazz musicians at Whitman, with a Jazz Combo concert on Dec. 2, and Battle of the Bands roster releasing on Dec. 8 in anticipation of Whitsquatch.

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