Mercyhurst Jazz Band dazzles campus with big-band concert

Victoria McGinty, Features Editor

One of the many things society has missed during the pandemic is the ability to enjoy a live performance. Live art is one of our campus’ most valuable attractions due our array of incredibly talented students and professors alike. Fortunately, with the slow process of returning to normalcy, concerts and live performances are starting to be held again.

Of the many activities slowly making a comeback, Mercyhurst is thrilled to hold live performances yet again, especially in the various departments whose purpose is to perform. On Nov. 13, the Mercyhurst Jazz Ensemble held its fall concert in the Taylor Little Theater at 7:00 p.m. The concert titled, “It Doesn’t Sound Little,” featured a variety of arrangements that the “small-but-mighty” ensemble was able to showcase their talents with.

Associate professor of Music, Scott Meier Ph.D, was incredibly humbled to direct the showcase of students in front of a live audience yet again. Due to his students’ incredible talents, Meier was able to choose some difficult and impressive pieces. Meier was eager to feature the following students and their musical talents yet again.

The saxophone section featured Willow Lapp (alto saxophone), Dennis Whalen (tenor saxophone) and Cooper Hicks (baritone saxophone).The trumpet sections featured Kirk Morrison and Austin Aldrich with Rebecca “Becky” Ferguson on the trombone beside them. A hearty percussion section rounded out the ensemble featuring Jacob Perry (piano), Shawn Preston (drums), Camryn “CC” Smith (percussion) and Emily McGarvey (bass).The ensemble took on an array of selections with the intent of highlighting the musicians both as a group and for their individual strengths and talents. This is a luxury afforded by the individual talents that each per-former possesses.

The concert began with Rick Stitzel’s arrangement of “Birdland,” an upbeat, well-known jazzy arrangement that featured Lapp, McGarvey and Perry on their respective instruments. The second piece, “Dat Dere,” was first made famous by Bobby Timmons in 1960.The ensemble chose to play the Mark Taylor arrangement, which highlights the arrangement’s elements of swing and mystery. This piece featured the remarkable talents of Perry on the keyboard.

The third piece, “Speak Low,” which was originally made famous by Kurt Weill in 1943, works with sound dynamics. The Chuck Israels arrangement that the ensemble played high-lighted these dynamics perfectly and featured Ferguson, Whalen, Morrison and Perry on their respective instruments.

The fourth piece, “Sea Breeze,” was the most laid-back of the arrangements in the ensemble’s repertoire. It was a nice change of pace from the rest of the concert, so it felt well-placed. This Douglas/Norman composition featured Morrison on the trumpet and demonstrated the variations of dynamics and mood that jazz can take on in many forms.

The fifth and sixth arrangements, “Afro Blues” and “The Other Brother’s Mother’s Blues,” how-ever, reintroduced the audience to the other side of jazz, known as blues, that also holds a unique place in music’s history. These arrangements featured Perry, Whalen, Morrison and Fer-guson. The concert concluded with John Mills’ arrangement of “Two Finger Punch,” which is a lesser-known piece, but nonetheless a fantastic arrangement to conclude a concert. This enthusiastic piece did not feature any students but demonstrated the talents of each student combined as an ensemble. Meier was humbled and excited to interact with his students and the audience.

At many points during the performance, he consistently ex-claimed to the audience his gratitude to showcase a concert in a live setting again. “My job is music, and I have the profound privilege to make music every day with amazing students and colleagues. I am deeply enriched by what I get to do and share with others,” wrote Meier on the concert’s playbill. His students also share the same gratitude. Morrison said, “This performance really demonstrates how tight playing can make a jazz combo sound like a full big band and I am thrilled to share that with an audience again.”

The concert was successful and was met with a solid turnout and the audience was responsive to the arrangements and the comedic remarks from Meier. If you missed this concert, the Music Department is always hosting something amazing that you can experience. In the near future the department has many events to look forward to. The Small Ensembles concert is set for Dec 1. Followed by a Mercyhurst Christmas Gala on Dec. 5 and a senior voice recital by Senior Voice major Hayley Ripple to close out the semester on Dec. 12.For more information on what is in the future for the department, visit the events page on the university website or reach out to Meier at