November 17, 2009

Studio Jazz Orchestra to present two concerts

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Studio Jazz Orchestra presents two concerts on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Shryock Auditorium.

The first concert begins at 1 p.m., and the target audience is school children and high school students. The Morning Etude Concert Series sponsors this concert. Tickets are $2. To purchase tickets, call Toni Intravia at 618/457-8603.

The evening concert begins at 7:30. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. Tickets are available in advance at the ticket offices at the SIU Arena or the Student Center, or at the Shryock Auditorium Box Office. Tickets are also available the night of the performance. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the School of Music scholarship fund.

Timothy Pitchford, who directs the orchestra, said it is reminiscent of the Big Bands from the Swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. However, the SIUC Studio Jazz Orchestra plays a wide range of jazz, from the Big Band classics to contemporary pieces structured for large jazz ensembles. This concert will also feature Latin jazz, a mamba with a Cuban beat.

Pitchford said the orchestra will also back a vocalist, graduate student Andrea Gedrasik. This will be Gedrasik’s debut as a jazz singer with a large ensemble.

Pitchford talked about the challenges and joys of introducing jazz, the popular music of earlier generations, to students who often have not grown up hearing jazz on a daily basis.

“We’re really starting from scratch -- the music is foreign to them,” he said. “It’s a whole new set of fundamentals in terms of new rhythms and new styles.”

While improvisation is a common feature of jazz, it is less important in a large ensemble setting, he said. Students do have a chance to try a solo during the performance, but they must also learn to follow the rhythm and the music.

“It’s really a conversation,” he said. “They learn to listen to jazz in layers. Yes, you might hear a Miles Davis solo, but it’s really a call and response in jazz and rhythm is the heart of it. There is tension and release and room for natural instincts.”

Pitchford said he emphasizes authenticity with his students. When they play a Count Basie number, he wants them to sound like the Count Basie Orchestra, for example.

Pitchford is a member of the popular New Arts Jazztet, a faculty jazz ensemble that brings jazz to Southern Illinois and beyond.