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PSU jazz musicians enrich university, churches, and community

Pittsburg is home to local music of all varieties, from classical ensembles to funk bands, but the Half-Pitts are jazzing things up. 

The Half-Pitts quartet is a band made up of all Southeast Kansas musicians and PSU music students. The band consists of Bryan Amor, senior in music performance, on keyboard and vocals, Caden Forbes, sophomore in music performance, on electric guitar, Kiel O’Neal, sophomore in music and business, on electric bass, and Fayne Speer, sophomore in music education, on drums. The band has played locally since May and performs a variety of styles, primarily jazz and pop music. 

“(We’re) just a couple of guys who decided to get together and form a pretty hot rhythm section..,” Amor said. “… We’ve all been previously involved in PSU Jazz, but this year, some of us just couldn’t fit it in our schedules…” 

The band’s members, in addition to playing jazz music, are all classical musicians as well. Amor is the concertmaster on violin for the Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State, O’Neal plays French horn in the Symphony, Speer participates in the PSU Percussion Ensemble and PSU Wind Ensemble, and Forbes plays as a part of the Rock Pitt for the Pride of the Plains Marching Band. 

“We also wanted to continue to play during the summer,” Speer said. “… Once we’re out of the semester, there’s not really any things we can do as the PSU Combo…” 

The Half-Pitts prepare music for performance differently than in their classical ensembles. The band prints “lead sheets,” sheet music showing the melody and the chords that go with it, or they print out lyrics and write the chords to go with them. According to Amor, they move forward by listening to recordings they like to “develop a form and steal some licks.” 

“We try to make the overall sound our own,” Amor said. “We’ll take a couple solos each… After the solos, we’ll take a few more…” 

The band also likes to add things in from other musical sources, according to Forbes. 

“At this point, Fayne will usually suggest something crazy,” Forbes said. “We’ll throw in something else on the solo.” 

The Half-Pitts’ members also play as part of the Praise Band at Pittsburg Presbyterian Church, colloquially known as Pitt Pres, with the addition of an extra vocalist. 

“Being on stage, performing this stuff is a lot of different than being in a classical ensemble or a church ensemble,” Amor said. “There’s a little bit more wiggle room to be yourself. There’s a lot more flexibility… There’s no pressure from a professor or a pastor or a director… It’s just about playing some music with a couple of guys.” 

The Half-Pitts don’t have any definitive plans for concerts coming up, but they did encourage eager fans to keep an eye out for possible performances at Signet, Root Coffeehouse, Chatter’s, the U-Club in the basement of the Overman Student Center, the Pittsburg Farmers’ Market, and local music festivals. 

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