Zari Watts | Contributing Writer
In just a few days, the Hampton University jazz ensemble will treat the community to an exciting live performance. On Monday, November 2 at 8 p.m. they will take the stage at Odgen Hall for their first concert of the year. They are ready to share their sound. The concert is free and open to all of Hampton University as well as the public.
Mr. Jerry A. Bracey has been the director of the jazz ensemble for 17 years and also the director of the chamber orchestra at Hampton. He shared some insight into the members of this year’s jazz ensemble and how they play. While Mr. Bracey did not make any modifications to the original pieces, he noted, “each group of students brings their own style.”
The ensemble is comprised of about 90 percent freshmen, and he shared that they have a “new attitude and a unique sound.” He also commented that the members “really love jazz, and like playing jazz.” There are about 20 students in the ensemble, both music majors and non-majors. Bracey shares that although “some of them have been playing for years, they’re all learning at the same time.”
In response to how he believed the student body would receive the concert, Mr. Bracey said confidently, “If they come, they’ll love it.” He insisted that this live jazz performance would be a positive experience for the students. He also shared that “most students theses days don’t pay attention to jazz- they gravitate much more towards hip hop and R&B. But jazz is our music as well.”
Like the past jazz ensemble concerts, this one will include selections from a wide array of genres such as swing, latin, dixieland, ballads, and contemporary. For this particular show, the ensemble will be performing pieces from musicians like Mark Taylor and Duke Ellington. The concert will also feature multiple pieces arranged by Sammy Nestico. Nestico is a composer and arranger of “big band” jazz music who arranged for the famous Count Basie jazz orchestra from the 1930’s.
Brandon Monroe, a freshman music education major from Connecticut, is one of the many new members of the ensemble. He has been playing instruments since his early childhood, and this will be his first concert as a collegiate musician. His primary instrument is the trumpet, and that is what we will hear him playing for the upcoming show.
He shared a sweet story of how his father influenced his beginnings with the trumpet: “In fourth grade that’s when they start up band in the elementary schools. I thought I had to play, actually, because my father played. But it was something I always wanted to do, so I took trumpet because my dad played trumpet, and it just went from there.”
To say the least, Brandon is a musically inclined individual. He plays several instruments outside of the jazz ensemble. He mentioned his diverse abilities as a music student, “We all have to take a minor instrument, so mine is piano, but I play other things like guitar, bass, and drums.” In addition to the diversity of his abilities, Brandon showed that he has honed his craft with the trumpet saying, “I was switched from the 4th part to playing the lead trumpet. Professor Bracey asked me to play lead! It’s actually a jump for me, but it’s going well so far.” Brandon also plays the trumpet in the marching band.
On top of the fresh sound that the new jazz ensemble members like Brandon will bring to this concert, there’s another element that will truly make this event a delight: guest musicians. There will be two guests performing with the ensemble on Monday. The first is Staff Sergeant Dandrick S. Glenn, a bass trombone player for the United States Air Force band who has played for President Obama. The second guest is Robert “Bob” Ransom, a trumpet player who both studied and taught at Hampton University, and former member of the Virginia Symphony.
With the selection of music, the new musicians, and the guest performers, this upcoming jazz concert is sure to be an event worth attending.
Attention all students: Mr. Bracey is looking for trombone players to join the Hampton University jazz ensemble. So regardless of major, Bracey implores all interested students to give it a shot! His office is in Armstrong Hall, room 140.