Working in concert: small jazz ensembles don’t fall flat

Rowan's first small jazz ensemble performance of the night on October 9 included the works of Luis Bonfa, Duke Ellington. - Arts & Entertainment Editor/Tara Lonsdorf

On Oct. 9, at Boyd Recital Hall, members of Rowan University’s music department were getting jazzy. Under the direction of faculty jazz percussionist Dan Monaghan and jazz professor Douglass Mapp, four groups of ranging in size from four tp six musicians each, performed works of jazz legends such as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Luis Bonfa.

Law and justice studies major Kevin Hewitt performed bass with the first group to take the stage, performing songs such as “My Romance,” originally by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

“I am always happy to take the stage and perform,” Hewitt said. “But this one was especially exciting because it was my first concert of the semester. It was quite nerve wracking to be the first group up, but we were prepared for the show. It’s always exciting to be on the stage and just make something that only your group can make.”

Kevin Hewitt performs bass. – Arts & Entertainment Editor/Tara Lonsdorf

According to sophomore music industry and jazz performance double-major Jonathan Episcopo, who played trombone alongside Hewitt in the first group, the preparation for this event extended both in and outside of classroom learning.

“We meet once a week for an hour and fifteen minutes, performing a number of jazz standards before coming to a decision as to what our concert tunes will be,” Episcopo said. “Most of our preparation however, lies outside of class, learning and drilling the forms of songs so that when soloing or directing the ensemble we feel comfortable to take charge.”

Jonathan Episcopo performs trombone in his small jazz ensemble. – Arts & Entertainment Editor/Tara Lonsdorf

For many of the student musicians, this performance was made possible by the support offered by the faculty within the Rowan University Music Department.

“Coming to Rowan, I didn’t really know how the mechanics of jazz really worked,” Hewitt said. “Thanks to Professor Mapp’s lessons, I’m making great progress with reading bass lines. Every week (sometimes even twice a week) we would work on our jazz songs and other exercises to really get a feel for the songs.”

Hewitt also believes that working with Mapp, a principal player in the Reading Pennsylvania Symphony who had recorded with artists such as Lana Del Ray and R Kelly, has been a formative experience for him as a musician.

“I’m a Law and Justice major that has the ability to take private lessons with one of, if not the, best bass players in the state,” Hewitt said. “[Also] to perform in an amazing orchestra and perform in a small group where we get to choose the set and really have control over the songs we have. And having the chance to still do something I love and truly further my knowledge of the upright bass is phenomenal, and every day I’m so grateful to go to a school to let me do that.”

Upcoming music events include Faculty Spotlight of guitarists Brian Betz and Joseph Mayes on Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. in Boyd Recital Hall, as well as a performance by the Rowan University Orchestra on Oct. 23, at 8 p.m. in Pfleeger Concert Hall.

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