CSUN Jazz ‘A’ band wins big at three-day festival

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CSUN’s Jazz “A” band won first place and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble took third place at the biggest three-day jazz festival in the country, the 43rd Annual Reno Jazz Festival, which was held April 21-23.

The band’s sets consisted of 30-minute intervals, where students from the Vocal Jazz Ensemble performed “Minuano” by Pat Matheny, “Young and Foolish” by Arnold Horwitt and an arrangement by Kerry Marsh titled, “Don’t Be on the Outside.”

World class jazz artists, music educators and thousands of jazz students from various schools around the country attended the event. Attendees were immersed in live jazz performances, competitions and clinics, said Gary Pratt, associate professor of music and director of the Jazz Studies Department.

With 19 members in both Jazz “A” and “B” bands, the band consists of five saxophone players, four trombones, five trumpets, a piano, guitar and bass players, Pratt said.

With a total of 17 college level bands, the “B” band played first, and set the bar high for other bands, said Erick Joval, performance major and lead trumpet player in the Jazz “A” band.

Beating out Cal State Fullerton, Sacramento State, Cal State East Bay and the University of Nevada, CSUN students were proud of their accomplishments.

The “A” band was excited upon finding out they placed first and beat 16 other bands from various colleges around the country, Pratt said.

“I felt really happy, all the hard work paid off,” said Joval.

“We don’t go to festivals to win, we go to play and have fun,” Pratt said.

What separated the jazz band from others at the event was the diverse choice of music, the musicianship and the quality of the pieces played, said Joval.

“We went out there and had a diverse set, we played a quasi-Latin contemporary song, a ballad, and a contemporary piece called ‘Slight of Hand’ by CSUN Alumni Sherisse Rogers,” Joval said.

“Musically, we stood out,” Joval said. “I really feel that this school’s musicians and the level here at Northridge is far superior.”

Jazz students received constructive criticism at the Festival during the feedback clinics, where criticism was given on each of the band’s performances, Pratt said.

“I really think that (our success) has to do with the kind of music we play here,” Pratt said. “I noticed we tend to play cutting edge music and we try to get original sounding literature for our students to play.”

The band’s success can also be attributed to the musical environment that CSUN has and the level of sophistication that the students play at, Pratt said.

Since each jazz major has a built-in mentorship with faculty, who are performing professionals, and since students get to watch prominent jazz professionals speak, perform and share their experiences, students definitely benefit from CSUN’s music program, Pratt said.

Joval said Jazz “A” band Director Matt Harris treats his students the way he wants them to sound professional.

“He makes us believe it’s our band and not his band, the way he runs us is great,” Joval said.

In an effort to motivate, inspire and intrigue students, famous jazz artists are invited to speak to the jazz students, Pratt said.

Joval said that when the artists come in and speak, it benefits the students a great deal.

“It’s very nice and it’s amazing to hear their stories, ask questions and hear them perform,” he said.

Joval also said winning first place lets everybody know that “just because it’s a Cal State doesn’t mean it’s not a good (school).”

Peter Schneider, senior jazz studies major and saxophone player in the Jazz “B” band, said the CSUN bands definitely stood out among the rest.

“It was a really positive musical experience, the band was on fire, there was a lot of information on what to do with my life,” Schneider said.

Schneider, who has been playing music seriously for six years, said the “B” band set the stage at the festival.

“Soul separated our band from all the other bands,” Schneider said. “We had fun doing it and we weren’t there to win, we were there to have fun and play.”