JACKSONVILLE Fla.—If you were to think of the title “Rhapsody in Blue,” one of the first people who would come to mind would undoubtedly be George Gershwin.
“I am so ecstatic to be performing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’” said Dillon Acey, a senior music major. “It’s been a piece I’ve been listening to throughout my musical career.”
George Jacob Gershwin was an American pianist and composer known for songs and compositions such as “Summertime,” “I Got Rhythm,” “An American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Gershwin, according to the Metropolitan Library System, is one of the greatest figures in American history.
“My grandfather on my mother’s side was a pianist/organist who, told to me by my mother, would practice the piano solo for this piece incessantly,” says Acey. “Jacksonville University is performing the Jazz Orchestra version orchestrated by Grofé. Playing the Jazz Ensemble arrangement for this piece presents different challenges than the version for orchestra but also creates a completely different texture, giving it that authentic early 1900s sound. It’s such an honor to be able to perform concrete repertoire like Gershwin and to have the opportunity to play the opening solo.”
Jacksonville University will be performing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on Tuesday, March 26th in the Terry Concert Hall. The event is free for all who attend. The jazz band will be accompanied by strings and will have some students perform some classic and original pieces. The jazz band will also be performing other contemporary arrangements for big band on that night as well. This concert will take place during Jacksonville University’s Jazz Week. This week will be full of opportunity to hear some great jazz. The Jazz Orchestra Concert will be a celebration of Jazz with an emphasis on the Blues. You’ll hear everything from standard ballads, to original pieces by Jacksonville University members.
“I have always admired Gershwin’s work like “Porgy and Bess,”’ says Angelika Rivera Robison, a senior musical theatre major. “I sang “Summertime” last semester, which was made famous by the opera “Porgy and Bess” which featured an all-black cast.”
The emphasis of this concert will be on big band compositions but will also focus and highlight some of the talent that currently exists in Jacksonville University’s jazz and big band ensembles. Such talents will include Scott Watkins on piano, Angelika Rivera Robison’s vocals, Dillon Acey on the clarinet and the likes of Joseph Brown and Luke Stribling on saxophone.
“The Jazz band practices have been efficient,” says Joseph Brown, a sophomore music business major. “We constantly rehearse the music over and over until it is ingrained into our fingers. For example, Luke Stribling, the lead saxophone, is in a practice room three times a day improving in his fundamentals and preparing himself for all genres of music. My peers are always listening to the songs we play, learning the changes and other people’s parts because we want to put on the best performance there can be.”
All the ensembles enjoy at least two major performances per academic year, as well as a minimum of two visits from major artists for clinics and performances every year. The Jazz Ensembles also perform festivals, short tours and at clinic invitationals on a regular basis. The JU Jazz Ensemble will be conducted by Christopher Creswell, an artist-in-residence of music at Jacksonville University.
“I look forward to performing in the concert and I know this concert will benefit JU,” says Robison. “It is so well known that everyone will want to come out and hear our music.”