Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

Around Tappan Square

The Seven-Man Traveling Jazz Band
Student musicians take on recruitment and alumni relations during concert tour
by Ivy Newman '04 and Yvonne Gay Fowler

The Oberlin Jazz Septet, in its first extended tour in 11 years, took to the roads on a snowy morning in January, embarking on a 4,200-mile winter-term road trip to concert sites in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Their goal? To gain valuable concert experience while promoting the Conservatory to renowned performing arts schools throughout the South.

Appointment to the Oberlin Jazz Septet (OJS) is a prestigious honor. The group performs regularly on and off campus and has shared the stage with big-name jazz professionals at venues such as the Detroit International Jazz Festival. Formed in 1992, its student members are selected each spring by professors of jazz studies. This year's group includes Josiah Woodson '03, trumpet; Andrea Murchison '04, trombone; Nicholas Lyons '04, saxophone; Courtney Bryan '04, piano; Robert Adkins '05, bass; Jason McMahon '05, guitar; and Patrick Barter '06, drums.

The septet's faculty sponsor, Professor of Jazz Studies and Bass Peter Dominguez, says the students were thrilled with the prospect of traveling this year. There was a catch, however: "They had to do all of the work themselves."

Enter Ivy Newman '04, a composition major and jazz septet aficionado, who quickly assumed the invaluable role of tour manager. For months prior to the trip, she worked with the Conservatory and Alumni Association offices to book gigs, contact alumni, and reserve hotel rooms and minivans. On the road, she served as the musicians' designated wake-up caller, appointment maker, and bunk-down coordinator, a task made easy by 10 alumni who opened their homes along the way.

Newman's parents hosted the group for two nights in Richmond, Virginia, during the first of several successful performance stops. At Huguenot High and Chimborazo Elementary schools, audiences swayed to the tunes of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. "Playing for the elementary students was among my favorite experiences," says McMahon, the guitarist. "They were all so curious. We played a game of 'name the instrument,' answered questions, then performed some of our original compositions."

"The high-school students were very enthusiastic," adds Newman. "It was exciting to learn that a few of them had already applied to Oberlin for next fall."

As the two-and-a-half-week tour pressed on, the group became increasingly im-pressed with the interest displayed by alums; several regional clubs even organized concert venues, such as an evening performance at the Big Easy Club in Houston. "We had a really good time listening to jazz music and serving the stu- dents breakfast," says host Jim Claghorn '57.

In Jacksonville, Florida, Andy Harold '90 and Carolyn Rosenberry '65 organized a concert for 75 people at Arlington Congregational Church. Harold says he acted quickly after reading an e-mail from the Alumni Association last fall announcing the tour. "We don't have enough active alumni in Florida, so when this event came up, I saw it as a great way to get some Obies to come out."

Rosenberry and her husband, Terrone '65, hosted several students during their two-day Florida stay, and, along with Jessica Berber Pate '80, prepared a potluck dinner for the group. "They had a jam session in our living room. I was blown away--physically and literally," she laughs.

Alumni appreciation continued in New Orleans, where OJS members were guests at an Orpheum Theater concert featuring the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Michael Christie '96.

Coasting through the southern states, OJS performed at a Henry Gray High School fundraising event in Atlanta, kicked off the Coastal Jazz Association's 2003 concert series in Savannah, and even got in an impromptu performance at the Funky Butt Jazz Club in New Orleans. The tour ended with a visit to the Houston School for Performing and Visual Arts.

"At first the thought of being an ambassador for the entire Conservatory was a little intimidating, but once we got on the road and started playing, I felt truly honored," says McMahon. "When I was in high school, I would have loved having a local college come play for us, let alone a world-class conservatory."

As the miles of swampland and moss-covered trees became a blur, the musicians returned to Oberlin, exhausted yet exhilarated. "Most rewarding for me was the opportunity to work in arts management," reflects Newman. "Most challenging was having to boss around my peers.

"Before the tour, we had hoped to give school students a taste of Oberlin's excellent jazz studies program," she adds. "Weeks later, we returned safely to Oberlin, our mission accomplished."