Zoellner Arts Center is located at 420 E Packer Ave. (Hallie Fuchs/B&W Staff)

How Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra is encouraging jazz at Lehigh


Four Lehigh professors performed as a part of Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra in Baker Hall on Sept. 10. 

Scott Neumann, the band’s drummer, said while primarily rooted in jazz, the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra is not confined to one genre and uniquely blends together multiple musical styles and sounds.

“It moves around from an R&B soul-funk band to a pretty freewheeling jazz fusion band,” Neumann said. “There are jazz elements, but there’s also a lot of funk and a lot of fun. You could dance to a lot of this stuff.”

The group played a nine song set list, consisting of renditions of well-known jazz songs, original music and contemporary pieces. Neumann said this wide variety drew in an audience of people with varying levels of musical knowledge.

Jada Gonzalez, ‘24, a music minor and self-proclaimed jazz enthusiast, said jazz is unique due to the improvisation involved in it. 

Audience member Elise Grass’s, ‘25, said her lack of musical knowledge did not prevent her from enjoying the performance.

“I like how they ended it with ‘Let It Go’ because it’s a song that everybody knows,” Grass said.

The band has performed in Baker Hall many times before. Bill Warfield, the band’s leader and trumpet player, said they gathered a large and enthusiastic audience of Lehigh students and Bethlehem residents alike for this show.

Neumann said there was a better turnout at this show in comparison to some of their previous performances — he estimated around 250 people were in the attendance. 

The band members were happy with the quality of their performance and the audience turnout, Warfield said. 

“The band sounded really good,” Warfield said. “I don’t say that lightly. I’m really super critical of myself and my own band, I really hardly ever like anything.” 

Neumann credited the curation of the musical pieces to Warfield.

Along with putting together the set list, Warfield is responsible for the creation of the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra. 

“I got a grant from Lehigh and I put a couple of friends together and we did a little eight-piece band,” Warfield said. “I took the grant money and we made a tour. I’ve been playing with these guys for 30 years in various configurations.”

In addition to playing music together, Warfield and Neumann have been teaching at Lehigh as music professors for years. Neumann teaches percussion and Warfield teaches jazz. 

Cecilia Coleman, the band’s piano player, and Dave Riekenberg, the tenor saxophone player, also teach their respective instruments to students at Lehigh.

“I personally feel that the beauty about music is just the creativity that you can instill just from your heart, because it’s all a feeling thing,” Gonzalez said.  

Warfield said the professors will continue balancing touring as a part of the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra with teaching music at Lehigh throughout September and October, playing at venues throughout New York and Pennsylvania.

Although the Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra will not perform again at Lehigh until next year, both Warfield and Neumann said it is important to support jazz, the arts and student musicians. 

“Jazz is notoriously, even though it’s originally America’s true art form, (is) one of the most unrecognized and maybe misunderstood art forms in the country,” Neumann said. “It’s a diamond in the rough to have access to free shows at Zoellner.”

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