Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble to play at the Rives, March 29

27 Mar

VTThe Rives Theatre will host one of the state’s premier college jazz bands this Friday night when the Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble takes the stage in uptown Martinsville.

The band, which features approximately 20 musicians playing saxophone, trombone, trumpet and rhythm instruments, is made up of some of the university’s top musicians from the undergraduate and graduate ranks.

“For the 20 people that we take, we audition probably around 100 people every fall,” said Jason Crafton, the ensemble’s director. “For some of these chairs, we’ll have maybe 10 or 15 tenor saxophone players audition for (one of) four chairs. So it’s a very competitive thing, and we’ll have students work really hard over the course of the summer or the spring just to make this band. It’s definitely something people aspire to do.”

Friday’s concert will start with a performance from one of the university’s elite combo groups, featuring five or six jazz musicians, at 8 p.m. The Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble will begin playing around 8:45 p.m.

This year, the ensemble also features Matt Turner, a Martinsville High School graduate, on alto saxophone and clarinet.

Turner, a former member of the MHS Jazz Band, graduated from high school in 2009. A junior majoring in music education and performance at Virginia Tech, Turner said he practices 3 to 4 hours per day.

“I’m extremely excited to come back (to Martinsville). Most of these people haven’t heard me in so long, it’s exciting to see them again in this setting,” said Turner, who made the ensemble as a sophomore. “It’s just so much fun to get to do this – to get to play with such amazing musicians every single day. That, to me, is what it’s all about.”

The ensemble plays a wide variety of jazz, though most of it is considered contemporary. Even so, Crafton said audience members will recognize much of the music and may notice influences from the big band era, when artists like Glen Miller were hugely popular.

“A lot of the things that we’re playing are heavily influence by that older style,” said Crafton. “So there will be a lot of things that are very familiar to jazz fans, and then we’ll play some things that may be very exciting to folks who aren’t as familiar with the genre.”

One thing that makes this band unique compared to other university jazz bands is the age and experience of some of the musicians who will take the stage.

“The ensemble features some of the top musicians from all over campus – music majors and others – undergrads and graduate students, too,” he said. “We have a guy who’s getting a PhD in engineering who plays saxophone. That’s one thing that’s really interesting about this group, because a lot schools don’t do that.”

Adult tickets for the concert are $8 in advance and $10 at the door of the theatre. Student tickets (age 18 and younger) will be available at the doors of the theatre Friday for just $5 each. Adult tickets can be purchased at Woodall’s Music & Sound, as well as Studio 107.

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