Ushering the start of spring

Campus Life

Jazz Studies Program and Synthesizer Ensemble to perform April 1

by Josiah Thomas, Campus Life Editor

It maybe April Fool’s Day on the calendar but the Jazz Studies Program and Synthesizer Ensemble aren’t fooling April 1. Join both of these musical ensembles for a night of talented musicians and vocalists. The eclectic repertoire programmed by the ensembles will unfold into a lively and creative concert that promises to usher in the freshness of spring.

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the DiPonio Room of the VisTaTech Center and feature the Jazz Ensemble, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Improvisation Combo and Synthesizer Ensemble.

Admission is free.  Donations will be gratefully accepted at the door and will be used to fund student scholarships and the Jazz Program.

Light’em up

The Synthesizer Ensemble is directed by Dr. Barton Polot and is set to take the stage with a very dynamic repertoire. They will perform a hard-edge fusion piece “Play with Me” made popular by guitarist Jeff Beck followed by an electronic performance of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most poignant pieces of classical repertoire. They’ll also be performing an original composition by band member Tommy Gniewek.

A special highlight will be a live performance of the jazz song “Icarus” with an original music video to be unveiled during the performance.

To play in a group with all-electric instruments requires musicianship and technology in equal measure. Indeed, they perform with an exciting array of electronic instruments, including synthesizer keyboards, a Kitara (an electric guitar with a touch screen), a Roland Handsonic (electronic congas), Roland V-Drums (electronic drum kit) and a Roland Ax-Synth (a keytar) to be featured in the concert.

To be part of the ensemble, the prerequisite for this class MUSIC 168 (Synthesizer Ensemble 1) is a semester of Class Piano 1. The group rehearses Tuesday afternoons 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Schoolcraft’s Synthesizer Ensemble has been working its magic since 1998.

Starting as an extracurricular activity, directed by music faculty member Bradley Bloom, it later became a credit-bearing course in fall 2005, and Polot has been the director since 2002.

Some highlights of this group’s time here include one moment in October 2011 when Schoolcraft College celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Charter. In a Gala celebration, the Synthesizer Ensemble gave an outdoor performance at the rededication of the Bell Tower.

“The ensemble is unique among Schoolcraft’s performing groups,” said Polot. The Chorale and Jazz Ensemble are primarily community groups, whereas the Synthesizer Ensemble consists only of enrolled students.”
Schoolcraft is one of only three electronic music groups in the entire state, with Michigan, Wayne State and Western Michigan as the only other ones. The ensemble has accepted invitations to perform at the Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids, the Technology Institute for Music Educators (stylized as TI:ME) and Electronic Music Midwest.

Bebopping the night away

The Jazz Program, which was founded back to the 80s, has a fascinating history. Headed by Dr. Riccardo Selva, this large group brings together a diverse assortment of musicians of various backgrounds and experience levels, as well as positive experiences they share with one another as a band.

The aim of the Jazz Program for this concert, according to Selva, is “To demonstrate the culmination of hard work, resulting in quality music.”

To this end, Selva greatly enjoys seeing progress and growth in each musician because when the players come to perform, they show achievements and their coming to a higher level of musicianship, not to mention the enjoyment that comes with performing in an exciting concert.

Both the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Improvisation Combo, aim to share the gift of music, which is a special experience unlike any other. Some highlights of theirs include a tour in Chicago back in 2011, which involved a performance at the Jazz Showcase, one of the most prestigious jazz venues in the entire world. Another highlight of this program includes an instance a few years ago where, at Schoolcraft’s own Michigan Jazz Fest in the DiPonio Room, where Carlos Santana himself stopped in for a brief visit while he was in the area.

For those who haven’t been to a jazz concert, people can expect a large variety of different styles and groups within the Jazz Program, joining the Synthesizer Ensemble. Concertgoers can look forward to songs such as Rumba Urbana by Oscar Hernández; Take the “A” Train by B. Strayhorn & L. Gains; and It’s Only A Paper Moon by . B. Rose, E.Y. Harburg, & H. Arlen, arranged by J. Nowak. In anticipation of the big concert, Selva says, “It’s going to be fun, lively and exciting. It will be an Audio Visual feast and a musical culinary extravaganza.”

For more information about the concert, contact Patricia Minnick at music@schoolcraft.edu or at 734-462-4403.