Jazz, Classical share stage

Pianist David Hoffman performs a solo Friday during an EIU Jazz Ensemble performance in the Dvorak Concert Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center. The EIU Jazz Ensemble and Wind Symphony joined together for "Life in the Groove." (Miranda Ploss | The Daily Eastern News)

By Andrew Crivilare/Staff Reporter

Two genres of music shared a stage when the Eastern’s Jazz Ensemble and Woodwind Symphony played Friday at the Concert Hall in the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

The multiple-award-winning Jazz Ensemble took the stage first under the direction of Professor Sam Fagaly.

Fagaly said the ensemble had just performed little more than a week prior to their Friday night concert.

“We didn’t want to repeat too many parts,” Fagaly said.

The Jazz Ensemble was conscious of the fact that they were playing to an audience mixed with members primarily anticipating the Woodwind Symphony as well as their own fans, Fagaly said.

“We tried to have enough variety that the audience will find something they enjoy,” he said. “They seemed to enjoy it.”

Fagaly said the ensemble has been hard at work practicing together since the beginning of the semester but also devote time on their own to practicing skills they bring to the ensemble.

“Most of them are studying jazz,” Fagaly said. “The students work on improv on their own.”

Steve Kaiser, a graduate student studying music and the Ensemble’s guitarist, was met with applause during his improvisation during the Ensemble’s final number, “And Another Thing.”

Kaiser said to prepare for the improvisation the members of the band each turn to their musical heroes for inspiration.

“We try to emulate who we look up to,” Kaiser said. “Tonight, I was thinking about Pat Metheny, he’s a big influence.”

The Ensemble also sought to honor a jazz great when they performed “Boplicity,” made famous by Miles Davis, in a way resembling Davis’s 1949 recording as accurately as possible.

“Once in a while we like to pay tribute to a classic recording,” Fagaly said. “We try to recreate the recording as best we can since its such an important part of our literature.”

The Wind Symphony performed second, conducted by Alan Sullivan.

Sullivan started the Symphony off with an piece called “Graysondance.” Sullivan said the composer David Holsinger wrote it about Holsinger’s son in 1993.

Sullivan said the song’s hectic, upbeat pace betrays that Holsinger’s son was a little hyperactive.

The Symphony closed with a number called “Bayou Breakdown.”

“It’s like Bach meets Percy Granger meets jazz,” Sullivan said. “It’s the most different Bach you’ll ever hear in your life.”

Michelle Sullivan, conductor Alan Sullivan’s daughter, was on hand to watch her father’s first performance at Eastern.

“He was stressing out,” she said.

Sullivan said when the evening was complete and her father took his bow, she knew the concert had been a success.

“I remember him coming off the stage with a big smile on his face,” she said.

Lisa Gaza, a senior music major and French horn player in the Symphony, said Woodwind Symphony said she too thought Friday’s performance went as well as planned.

“We did a lot of rehearsals, getting the kinks out,” Gaza said. “But I think tonight we really kicked it.”

Andrew Crivilare can be reached at 581-7942 or ajcrivilare@eiu.edu.

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