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The PSU Jazz Ensemble plays at the Bicknell Thursday, Nov. 14. The ensemble is under the direction of Robert Kehle. Logan Wiley

PSU Jazz Ensemble presents concert with high school honor band

High school musicians have to work just as hard as college musicians on their craft, and that is no different for the District II Honor Band and the PSU Jazz Ensembles. 

The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts hosted three jazz ensembles: the PSU Jazz Combo, the PSU Jazz Ensemble, and the District II Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) Honor Jazz Band, on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Students in the high school ensemble were required to audition and spent all day on Thursday preparing for the concert with guest clinician Lisa Hittle, director of jazz studies at Friends University. Hittle is an active jazz musician in the Wichita area and works as an adjudicator and clinician throughout the Midwest. 

The PSU Jazz Ensemble has several alumni from the District II Honor Jazz Band, including freshman in music education Alejandra Cornelio who played trumpet in the Honor Jazz Band when she was in high school. 

“It’s really fun, because you get to play with other great musicians,” Cornelio said. “I love playing (music)… with other people, in general.” 

The PSU Jazz Combo opened the concert with a set including “Witch Hunt” by Wayne Shorter, “Speak Low” by Kurt Weill, “Bessie’s Blues” and “Naima” by John Coltrane, and “Boplicity” by Cleo Henry. After the Jazz Combo performed, the PSU Jazz Ensemble performed selections including “Did You Do That?” by Stanley Kay and arranged by John McNeil, “Bo Bakk” by Eckard Baur, “In the Still of the Night” by Fred Parris and arranged by Patrick Williams, and “Apollo’s Reel” by Tom Molter. The KMEA Honor Jazz Band closed the concert with a variety of jazz standards and new compositions, including “The Funk Stops Here” by Richard de Rosa, “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria, “Star Eyes” by Gene DePaul, “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma, “Just a Minor Thing” by Mike Steinel, “Easy to Love” by Cole Parker, “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham. 

Staff at the Bicknell Center worked with students and KMEA staff during the day and at the concert to achieve musical success, including junior in music education Ethan Pope. 

“I thought all the high schoolers did a great job,” Pope said. “I ran the sound from the soundboard and made it so they could be heard when they solo… I got to tell them, ‘Hey, play into the microphone…’ Sometimes I had to turn it all the way up but that was okay. They’re learning, and district jazz is a great way for them to learn…” 

The Bicknell Center staffs its halls with many people who are involved in music, including senior in communication Ryan Amick who is an alumnus of the KMEA Honor Jazz Band on saxophone. 

“It’s really cool, getting to see this tradition of wanting to excel in music… and inspiring the (students) to perform at such a level,” Amick said. “With all these honor bands, they bring in a clinician from outside the area that comes in and works with the students… They get to work with… these extremely talented individuals and clinicians…”

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