The Delta State University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Bret Pimentel, will present the annual spring concert at 7:30 p.m. on April 21 in the Delta and Pine Land Theatre of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.
The concert will feature guest vocalist Dr. Laurissa Backlin, assistant professor of Music at Delta State. Backlin joined the Delta State faculty in 2014. The concert will also feature several student, faculty and community soloists.
The Jazz Ensemble is a 19-piece “big band” made up of music majors and non-music majors selected by competitive audition. The band is known in the community for its annual Big Band Bash fundraiser, an evening of dining, dancing and classic Swing Era music.
Big band jazz is characterized by tightly coordinated, high-energy playing from a large horn section made up of trumpets, trombones and saxophones, working in partnership with a powerful, driving rhythm section of keyboards, bass and drums. Individual group members often perform solos that are improvised—composed spontaneously in live performance.
The repertoire of Delta State’s Jazz Ensemble includes favorites from the Swing Era of the 1930’s and 1940’s as well as more contemporary jazz styles from the 1950’s to the present. This year’s concert lineup includes new and classic swing music by great composers and arrangers like Count Basie, Quincy Jones, Thad Jones, and Glenn Miller.
The concert is free and open to the public.
The Delta State University Jazz Ensemble presents its annual Big Band Bash dinner dance on Friday, February 6, at the Cleveland Country Club. The band will play the music of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, and more, with the dance floor open to local jitter-buggers. The Big Band Bash is a crucial fundraiser for Delta State’s jazz-related activities, and supports scholarships, equipment purchases, and other needs.
This year’s event has a Valentine’s Day theme. Dress is black-tie-optional or Valentine red.
Admission is $20, and DSU student tickets are available for $5. 100% of ticket proceeds go to the DSU Jazz Ensemble as a tax-deductible donation. The Cleveland Country Club will have dinner and drinks available from a special menu. Seating and supper orders begin as early as 6:30pm.
Contact Rogers Varner at (662) 846-6636 for more information or to purchase tickets.
The Delta State Jazz Ensemble will present sounds of the Swing Era at the sixth annual Big Band Bash on Feb. 28 at the Cleveland Country Club. Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. and entertainment at 7:30 p.m.
This year’s Big Band Bash will have a Mardi Gras theme. It will be an evening of music, food, dancing and entertainment that, in past years, has included costume contests, dance-offs and a New-Orleans-style jazz parade.
The Delta State University Jazz Ensemble is a select group of student and community musicians whose great-grandparents may have enjoyed the sounds of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller in their heyday. The ensemble is directed by Dr. Bret Pimentel.
“It’s fun to see college students so excited about this music,” said Pimentel. “Once this music was the sound of youthful energy, freedom and fun. It still has those qualities for these musicians, and for the audiences that hear them, whether young or old.”
The Big Band Bash is a crucial fundraiser for Delta State’s jazz-related activities, and previous funds raised from this event have resulted in the establishment of a new scholarship program for members of the ensemble.
Dr. Paul Hankins, a former director of the ensemble and current interim dean of Delta State’s College of Arts and Sciences, feels that this music needs to be preserved, enjoyed and remembered.
“In this part of the country, where there is such a rich musical tradition, it’s especially important that we keep the sounds of jazz alive,” said Hankins.
Local businessman Rogers Varner is the originator of the event and one of its driving forces. Varner helps organize the event, sell tickets and even plays in the band’s saxophone section. He has participated in the Delta State Jazz Ensemble as a community member for a number of years that he politely declines to disclose. He is humble about his skills as a musician, though the other band members—mostly students in professional training as musicians and music educators—value his contribution and welcome him as a member of the group.
“It’s an escape for me,” said Varner. “I’ve always loved this music, and it’s a treat to get to rehearse and perform with people who feel the same way I do.”
In 2011, Varner was awarded the Delta State Music Department’s Philanthropy Award for his work on the Big Band Bash.
In addition to the performance by the Jazz Ensemble, there will be small-group performances by local professional musicians including Hankins and Pimentel.
General tickets are $20, and Delta State student tickets are $5. The full 100 percent of ticket proceeds go to the Delta State jazz program as a tax-deductible donation. The Cleveland Country Club will have dinner and drinks available from a special menu prepared for the evening’s festivities. Contact Rogers Varner at (662) 846-6636 or Dr. Paul Hankins at (662) 846-4100 for more information or to purchase tickets.