Jazz combos encourage creativity

Jazz combos encourage creativity

Jazz combos encourage creativity

Jazz students are gaining new perspectives on music, their mentors and the world around them.

Students participating in Missouri Southern’s Jazz Improvisation class form combos to give a real-life aspect to class.

“The best way to learn to improvise jazz is to be in that combo setting, it becomes more practice than theory,” said Dr. Phillip Wise, professor of music and director of jazz studies.

Combos are typically comprised of music majors, though these combos frequently feature non-music majors who just enjoy playing jazz. This semester’s Jazz Improvisation class is divided into two combos to form equal combinations. Wise, along with his students, chose the repertoire based on the varying degree of difficulty and style of each piece. Students are also encouraged to write or arrange their own pieces for performance.

“It gives them some ownership in the combo and they get a chance to work on composition skills and arranging skills and they get to hear that piece performed,” Wise said.

Combos and the Jazz Orchestra performances also feature guest performers such as Dr. Jeff Macomber, assistant professor of music, on the trombone.

“The students benefit from participating in, perhaps, a more rigorous musical environment that encourages greater concentration,” Macomber said, “The faculty members benefit from witnessing a more accelerated learning process among the students.”

Students get an opportunity to learn firsthand from their professors, and the joint effort brings the combo together as a musical group.

“It gives a nice perspective to the students to be next to their professors playing the same music,” Wise said. “Music is ageless.”

Students have also been able to perform off American soil. Combo students in the past have traveled to the British Virgin Islands and British Columbia, Canada.

“I think it shows that the international mission here at the University is really geared toward affording our students educational opportunities,” Wise said. “The music department has taken full advantage of those.” More travel is in the future for the Jazz Combo groups through invitation or arranged performances, though nothing is yet scheduled.

In addition to performing in the combo almost half the students perform outside school. Students book weddings, parties, restaurants and night clubs as a group or individually. Wise and other instructors encourage students to work professionally and with other musicians as much as they can to gain real-world experience.

Though students will not graduate with a major in jazz, faculty members hope they will take away something more than theory and technique.

“After all is said and done, making good music is fun for all, student musicians and faculty musicians, alike,” Macomber said.