New band director jazzes up orchestra

Robert Terry, senior music major.

Robert Terry, senior music major.

Open seats were few and far between.

A sea of listeners was treated to “A Musical Buffet” during this semester’s Missouri Southern jazz orchestra concert Nov. 30.

The concert was the first for new director Dr. Jeremy Kushner, assistant professor of music.

“It was an exciting experience,” Kushner said. “Any time you do something new, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Dr. Jeffrey Macomber, assistant professor of music, played trombone during the concert and said he felt comfortable with Kushner as a colleague and as a director.

“He’s naturally a low-key fellow. He’s a very patient fellow,” Macomber said.

He said what he appreciates most about Kushner as a director is the fact that he encourages the students to take responsibility to do their best.

“There’s always a period of adjustment,” Macomber said, “But he comes through with flying colors.”

This year’s concert consisted of eight arrangements covering a mix of Latin, swing, ballad, traditional jazz and contemporary funk.

“I think it was a diverse kind of programming,” Macomber said. “It was an eclectic program with a repertoire of a lot of divergent styles.”

Kushner picked the pieces from his personal musical experience and musical catalog.

After he picked 20 possible songs, the band reduced the number to the eight that would provide the most diversity in sound.

“We wanted to give the audience something to think about,” Kushner said.

The band performed Poinciana as arranged by Macomber. Arranging pieces is a hobby of Macomber’s that provides its own rewards.

“It’s a gratifying experience,” Macomber said. “It’s nice to work on it in a rehearsal from a more objective standpoint. You forget the fact that it’s your own arrangement.”

During the Latin song Ran Kan Kan, a tribute to famous percussionist Tito Puente, Kushner joined the band to play the timbales, a pair of stand-up drums.

“I thought I’d take a shot at it,” Kushner said. “I don’t know how impressive it was.”

While this semester’s pieces were from a variety of composers, Kushner is considering using the theme of one composer or subject for the next concert.

“I just want to keep the program as diverse as possible,” Kushner said.

The professors said the semester jazz concert serves as a final exam for the jazz band practicum and is also helpful to the musicians by providing an audience.

“I like to have students perform as often as humanly possible,” Kushner said. “The more you do it, the more confident you get.”

Overall, the concert is the opportunity for music students to share their passion for jazz with other people.

“It’s an opportunity to show you can step it up, take it to the next level and really make it sparkle,” Macomber said.