Loyola Jazz Students Swing Into Newhart Theater

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By: Ehmed Nauman (Loyola Junior)

Disclaimer: Ehmed Nauman performed in the Jazz Showcase however, this article is not an opinion piece and is reporting on the events and thoughts of other performers in the show. 

Nearing the end of Loyola’s fall 2021 semester, jazz students performed their final showcase last week at Newhart Theater on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.

The Jazz Showcase featured three small-band combos along with Loyola’s one big-band ensemble that performed students’ original pieces and jazz standards. 

Matt Ulery, an established Chicago-based composer and bassist, guided the Loyola students throughout the semester as the official director of Loyola jazz bands. Ulery also accompanied two combos, playing piano and bass on students’ original pieces.

Seeing students perform their original compositions was the biggest highlight of the night for Ulery.

He said, “All the combos and the ensemble played a bunch of brand new original music. For me, that was the grand achievement. I witnessed everyone progress pretty wildly and it was great to see people improving at their art and themselves.”

From the start of the semester, Ulery felt encouraged to help students bring their original compositions to life for this showcase and onwards.

He said, “Everyone likes to have a goal to work towards, and a lot of times, that manifests in performances.”

For Loyola senior and bassist Erik Anderson, this semester meant finally performing his original songs in a band setting.

He said, “If you can’t play music with other people it doesn’t really mean much. I wrote a lot during COVID and finally being able to hear them realized was a really cool experience.”

Asha Egmont, a Loyola sophomore and trombonist in the Jazz ensemble agreed that the showcase presented music in the communal setting it’s meant to be played in. For her, this was the first time playing in an in-person band at Loyola. 

She said, “It’s been a long time since I performed in front of people so it felt really good to play with people in the same room. That’s my favorite part about live music, people experiencing it together.”

Many students found this concert to be their first live show since pre-COVID times but still, Loyola musicians were confident in their rehearsals and preparation for this show. 

Anderson said, “Before, I was pretty nervous because I hadn’t played a show on upright bass but I felt like we worked really hard and I felt ready for the showcase. If you don’t have enough confidence in that kind of situation, it can be easy to flounder.”

Many of Loyola’s jazz bands are continuing into the spring semester with goals to expand and bring more jazz to Loyola’s campus.

Anderson said, “I definitely want to add some horn players to the band, write more, and play more shows at Loyola and around Chicago.”

When asked about his goals for next semester’s jazz bands, Ulery is always open to change and growth for himself and his students.

“Learning jazz is an abstract and challenging thing. There’s no strict path and you never know what the curriculum should be. We have to rely on our ability to improvise and understand each other’s experiences. It’s different every time.”

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