On Feb. 10, Rowan University hosted the 53rd Annual Rowan Jazz Festival Concert. The concert was held at the Pfleeger Concert Hall and was hosted by Denis DiBlasio, the director of Jazz Studies at Rowan University. The concert was a celebration of jazz music, featuring the university’s jazz band and renowned drummer Dan Monaghan.
The Rowan Jazz Band, led by DiBlasio, opened the concert with a lively and upbeat rendition of “Self-Help Is Needed” by Oliver Nelson. The band’s energy and enthusiasm set the tone for the entire concert, and the audience was captivated from the very first note. The Rowan Jazz Band, consisting of 19 talented musicians, demonstrated exceptional musicianship and a deep appreciation for jazz music throughout the night.
“For this festival, high school bands come and we work with them all week and that happens during the day that nobody sees, this is a whole different end of it,” said Deblasio. “This part tonight [was] the main concert with our [Rowan] students playing.”
The concert was a showcase for many different jazz styles from traditional swing to more contemporary jazz fusion. The band played a wide variety of arrangements by numerous jazz artists like Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Kenny Barron, Dizzy Gillespie and Mark Taylor. Each piece was expertly arranged and performed, highlighting the unique talents of the individual musicians and the collective sound of the ensemble.
The vocalese duet performance by Rowan’s jazz vocal instructor Annie Sciolla and her vocalist student Jake Lap was one of the evening’s highlights. Vocalese is a type of jazz singing that uses lyrics set to melodies that were originally created through instrumental improvisation or composition. Basically, an instrumental solo with lyrics that, if you could hear them, would convey a tale. The duo performed Jon Hendricks’s composition of “Cloud Burst.”
Along with talented historical arrangers, the Rowan University Jazz Festival Concert also featured accomplished student composers. The evening featured arrangements and original works from Trevor Jones, Chris Mollo and Anthony Demateis — each of whom displayed their musical talent and inventiveness. The Rowan Jazz Band performed their compositions expertly, and the audience was astounded by the level of talent and craftsmanship displayed by these young composers.
“Basically there is just a lot of sitting in your room figuring out how to write it. It starts with a process of kind of a layout and general road map of how I want the tune to go and then I add all the extra parts in there. That’s basically how it goes with a lot more extra steps,” said Anthony Demeteis, a Music Education major playing trumpet as his main instrument. His arrangement was named “Sunny Side of the Street.”
The audience was treated to a wide range of spectacular performances, and each musician had the chance to display their unique talent. These solos showcased the individual performers’ extraordinary talent and the amazing degree of proficiency they had developed through their study and practice of jazz music.
Dan Monaghan, a guest performer, gave a performance that was another highlight of the night. He spent eight years studying classical percussion before graduating from Temple University with a Bachelor of Music in jazz studies. Drummer Monaghan has performed with several jazz greats, including Eric Alexander, Peter Bernstein, Uri Caine and Randy Brecker. He performed a few brief solo numbers together with the Rowan Jazz Band. The crowd at the Rowan Jazz Festival Concert was in awe of his extraordinary talent and expertise after his performance, which was nothing short of astounding.
“It’s an honor. I’m so happy Denis asked me to play,” said Monaghan when asked about how he felt being featured in the performance after being one of the organizers for years now. “What an honor it is to be in this position and to play with the band and work with the students. It’s amazing it really is.”
Together, the band and Monaghan played with seamless precision and a clear comprehension of and love for the music. Monaghan’s performance demonstrated his talent as one of the best drummers working today. Along with his performing experience, Monaghan also holds professor positions at Temple and Rowan Universities and frequently serves as a clinician at festivals, schools and colleges.
One member of the Rowan Jazz Band who performed that evening was one that may sound familiar. Earth on Fire’s drummer, Ryan DeCesare was also present during the performance. He is a new member of the Rowan Jazz Band having joined this semester. He has even stated that he is one of Monaghan’s students and meets with him every week.
“I was having a blast performing with him on stage. It was my first performance with him, very exciting. He was killing it — he was awesome,” said DeCesare.
Throughout the concert, DiBlasio interacted with the audience, providing insights into the music and the musicians. He shared anecdotes and stories that added to the overall enjoyment of the concert. His enthusiasm and passion for jazz music were infectious, and the audience responded with enthusiasm and applause after each piece.
The Rowan 53rd Annual Rowan Jazz Festival Concert was an unforgettable evening of jazz music, showcasing the exceptional talent of the university’s jazz band and the renowned drummer Dan Monaghan. The concert demonstrated the enduring appeal of jazz music and the remarkable skill of the musicians who perform it. The concert was a testament to the commitment and dedication of DiBlasio and the entire jazz program at Rowan University, and it was clear that the audience had a deep appreciation for the music and the musicians.
The 53rd annual jazz festival concert was held on Feb. 10 and featured guest performer Dan Monaghan. – Arts & Entertainment Intern / Al Harmon
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