Lehigh’s jazz ensemble performed its annual fall concert featuring student compositions ranging from traditional heavy swing to modern music on Nov. 19.
According to the event’s website, the concert featured, “Some of the old and some of the new, with something for everyone.”
Lehigh’s Jazz Combos and Big Bands is one of several student music groups performing this week in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall at 8 p.m.
Friday’s concert featured iterations of work by jazz icons like Thad Jones, as well as several student compositions.
Matt Hornung, Andrew Johnson, and Yariel Henriquez, all had their original work showcased at the concert after spending the pandemic writing music with Bill Warfield, director of the ensemble, over Zoom as a part of their capstone projects.
Warfield, who has worked in Lehigh’s music department for 27 years, said in his role as director he is responsible for fostering an environment for students to create and truly enjoy the music.
“I don’t micromanage, I treat them like professionals,” Warfield said. “And in all honesty, Lehigh’s music program is actually better than a lot of other schools.”
As with many student groups, the ensemble has faced challenges due to the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. Warfield said last year was incredibly challenging without the ability to properly practice or perform.
Large sheets of plastic divided students into their own compartments on the Zoellner stage, which affected sound quality and the overall atmosphere of the groups.
Despite this, students still met to practice and continued to write music. Warfield gathered members of the Lehigh jazz faculty to record student pieces virtually to be made into a CD released through the label Planet Arts Network.
“We had a performance two weeks ago and this is our second performance of the year,” said Quan Hoang, ‘25, a trombonist in the ensemble. “Overall, I am very excited to perform since it has been over a year since I was able to perform and I enjoy playing the pieces we are playing.”
Hoang said he joined the ensemble because playing jazz music was something he wanted to continue from high school.
Another participating student, Devon Kolumber, ‘22, the drum major for Marching 97, has been a part of the jazz ensemble for three years.
“My involvement in jazz has given me the opportunity to expand my music ability and to play with and collaborate with other students I don’t see in other ensembles,” Kolumber said.
Despite his continued involvement, Kolumber still feels the occasional sting of nerves.
“This year especially is one like never before,” Kolumber said. “I’ve missed out on a year and a half of performing and now I only have two semesters to make up for it. I’m taking in as much of the experience as I can because I know it’ll be gone before I know it.”
The band had two weeks to prepare for Friday’s concert, which Warfield said is not enough time to put together an entirely new program. Despite this, they were able to pull it off, as he said the students love the music and are motivated to play it.