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Music performance major Keaton Martin performs a solo on "Body and Soul" by Ned Washington during the UNLV jazz convocation on April 22. (Photo by Peter LaCascia)
Music performance major Keaton Martin performs a solo on "Body and Soul" by Ned Washington during the UNLV jazz convocation on April 22. (Photo by Peter LaCascia)

Music Students Overcome Setbacks to Display Talents at Jazz Convocation

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The UNLV jazz department dodged last second difficulties to pulled off its thirteenth convocation this semester on Wednesday without a hitch.

The UNLV music department conducts 15 convocations each semester at the Dr. Arturo Rando-Grillot Recital Hall in the Lee and Thomas Beam Music Center to allow students to share their talents.

This convocation was specifically dedicated for jazz studies students, while the others primarily feature students studying classical music.

The jazz department, however, experienced two issues that occurred minutes prior to the convocation, one of which involved a drummer unexpectedly announcing that he was not performing for unknown reasons.

Colin Woodford, a jazz studies graduate student who managed the convocation activities, acted quickly and convinced Jeremy Klewicki to provide his drumming abilities for an additional song.

“It’s great to know that there are guys like him who are ready to go under the most bizarre circumstances,” Woodford said.

Various students also experienced issues with their instruments and amplifiers, requiring some musicians to share their equipment.

The students enrolled in private lessons are required to register for convocation three months prior to the performance, are then assigned to a combo one month later, and must learn a jazz standard that corresponds to their group.

Unlike classical musicians, jazz students don’t practice their required pieces with their designated groups prior to convocation.

Guitarist and music performance major Tom Hannigan, 20, said that the lack of group practice is the decisive factor that creates an unforgettable jazz convocation.

“Jazz and classical music are two totally different types of entertainment,” Hannigan said. “Classical music requires thorough attention to detail, while jazz is all about freestyling and having fun. The more you excessively practice and overthink jazz music, the less fun it becomes.”

The 2015 spring jazz convocation offered 23 students who were divided into 4 groups.

Professor Nathan Tanouye, 40, said that this convocation offered the fewest amount of students in almost five years.

“We usually have at least five or six groups, and definitely have more than 35 students,” Tanouye said. “I believe I heard that some music students were doing their junior or senior recitals this semester, but I didn’t think it was that many.”

Music students who complete their recitals during their junior and senior year are not required to perform for convocation in the same semester.

Tanouye also noted the lack of vocalists in this convocation.

“During the past few semesters, we’ve had at least four or five singers, now we only have one,” Tanouye said.

The jazz standards performed at the one-hour concert included Ned Washington’s “Body and Soul” and “My One and Only Love” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.

One of the students in each group provided a brief history of their assigned piece prior to the combo performing the standard.

Each standard also featured five solos, most of which lasted two minutes.

One of the few solos that triggered a standing ovation was performed by the concert’s sole vocalist, Gary Fowler, 23. He performed a two-minute scat singing solo on “Moment’s Notice” by Clifford Brown, displaying his three-octave vocal range.

There were several music students backstage who voiced negative perspectives regarding the semiannual jazz convocations.

“Convocation is the most ridiculous part of being a jazz studies major,” said guitarist Joe Garcia. “I feel like we only do this to show the classical department that we are not messing around.”

Garcia also said that the high ceilings of the designated convocation venue generate prominently distracting reverbs that severely damage jazz music performances.

“That hall was built for opera singers and recitals for instrumentalists, not for jazz combos,” Garcia said.

While the musicians themselves voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the concept of jazz convocation, several audience members praised the performance.

“I think it shows you how diverse our music department is, and especially how much the jazz people can do without much practice,” said music performance major Jay Leone, 18.

The latest jazz convocation attracted 29 audience members, which Tanouye believes is the lowest turnout among the past four semesters.

“I think we just needed to have students play more well-known standards,” Tanouye said.

The next jazz convocation is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 25.

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