Jazz I ensemble to bring new music to repertoire
3 mins read

Jazz I ensemble to bring new music to repertoire

When jazz music first boomed in American culture, artists brought the music to life during their live performances. USD’s Jazz I ensemble is doing the same, but with fresh and contemporary selections in Colton Concert Hall on Oct. 30.

Under the direction of Professor Christopher Kocher, the 16-person ensemble has been perfecting their pieces for the fall concert. The ensemble includes five trumpets, four trombones, four saxophones, piano, drums and an electric bass. 

“I think we work pretty well together. We are all good musicians and know how to listen to each other,” said junior trumpeter Tessa Hansen.

The ensemble worked throughout the first half of the semester to prepare for this concert, Kocher said she’s seen them grow as musicians and students.

In rehearsal, Kocher said he focuses on teaching not only the notes, but the style of jazz.

“It is almost like learning another language – how to balance and listen and tune to each other,” Kocher said. 

The students pass an audition process to participate in the class at USD, but most started their jazz experience in high school.

“In high school, at first [I was drawn to jazz] because it was a different type of music to play, but now the sound of it is a lot different and I appreciate it more,” said Caleb Menzie, senior saxophone player. 

For students Menzie and junior trumpeter Grant Hein, Jazz has a bouncy rhythmic tone, which was one of the biggest draws for all of the students in Jazz I, they said.

“[Jazz] displays a lot of individuality and especially with the improvisation that is present in jazz music,” said Hein said.

Some of the musician’s favorites from their fall concert include “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington and “Freedom Jazz” by Eddie Harris. 

Kocher has been directing the ensemble and teaching saxophone at USD since 1999. He said his musicians enjoy the refreshing aspect of jazz music they get to learn. 

Conducting and selecting jazz music takes skill. Nick Mettle, the electric bassist for the ensemble, said he sees that skill in Kocher. Teaching the rich, energetic tones of jazz music starts with understanding each instrument and musician in the ensemble.

“[Professor Kocher] picks a lot more contemporary music rather than just the standards. He seems to know all the instruments overall which is refreshing,” Mettler said. 

Each semester the group welcomes new musicians as some exit the ensemble, but they said they always find their rhythm. Halfway through the fall semester, Hein said the students are ready for their showcase.

“At this point in the semester, it’s all about repetition and becoming secure in our music,” Hein said. 

The students have been preparing their music for an audience and Kocher said he believes they are ready to perform.

“It would be great for people to come check out what these wonderful student musicians are creating in our jazz bands,Kocher said, “It’s a completely different experience to hear jazz being played live, to hear and see what happens in the moment.”