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US Army Jazz Ambassadors take Bicknell stage

On Monday, Oct. 29th, the audience members at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts clapped, dance, and sang along to a performance by the United States Army Jazz Ambassadors, the Army’s premiere big band.  

The concert was open to the community and free for all ages. Playing from 7-8:30, the US Army Jazz Ambassadors played many different jazz styles, including big band swing, patriotic favorites, and contemporary jazz. 

“I’ve been with the group for about 19 years, and consistently my favorite part of performing has to be interfacing with the audience after each concert,” says John Altman, trumpet player and road manager for the Jazz Ambassadors, “seeing how enthusiastic they are about having the military in their community, about hearing a jazz band perform live, and getting to meet army soldiers.” 

The Pittsburg community was one stop on the Jazz Ambassadors’ 35 consecutive day Fall tour. Audience members were glad to see the ensemble on the Bicknell Stage, and members of the ensemble were glad to be in Pittsburg. 

“PSU has an unbelievably gorgeous concert space,” Altman said. “We’re always honored to come into communities and perform in their venues, but it seems like they have an extra special connection with the local military support. All the flags they have set out really has made it a very appealing venue to perform in, visually.” 

One audience member was very glad that the Jazz Ambassadors had included the Bicknell stage to their tour. 

“We had planned to go to Joplin,” said Ned Sauer, accompanied by his son, Dwight. “That’s where they were playing yesterday. But then I saw it in the paper and I thought, I’m not going to Joplin, they’re coming here!” 

Three Pittsburg State University students were selected by PSU music faculty to play a piece with the Jazz Ambassadors; Henry Zimmermann played trumpet, Ryan Amick played alto saxophone, and Chris Goddard played trombone. 

“This experience has taught me to always be prepared,” Chris Goddard, senior in music education, said. “You never know when an opportunity like this will be given to you, so I consider myself very lucky to have been at the right place at the right time.” 

The musicians chosen to play with the ensemble were not the only students involved in the concert; PSU’s Army ROTC served as ushers and greeted the audience.  

“Tonight, we have the Army ROTC from right here at PSU,” said Altman. “They’re going to be starting off our concert with the National Anthem and the presenting of the colors, so it’ll be really nice to have them with us.” 

The US Army Jazz Ambassadors formed nearly 50 years ago in 1969 and have performed in all 50 states and in four different continents. 

“I wasn’t really sure if I liked jazz before the concert, but I heard the band was really good,” said Dominic Schrempp, sophomore in business. “But the concert was just really fun. It was so awesome to see people from so many generations enjoying the same music, which I don’t think happens very often anymore. It was a great concert, I would love to see more of them!” 

The Jazz Ambassadors offer a selection of free music available for band directors or anyone wanting to play jazz on their website (www.armyfieldband.com).  

“I know we’re going to have some really excited trumpet students here tonight, which always makes me excited to perform for,” said Altman. “I love getting the music out to the next generation of musicians.” 

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