Around Tappan Square
The Seven-Man Traveling Jazz
Student musicians take on recruitment and alumni
relations during concert tour
by Ivy Newman '04 and Yvonne Gay Fowler
Oberlin Jazz Septet, in its first extended tour in 11 years, took
to the roads on a snowy morning in January, embarking on a 4,200-mile
winter-term road trip to concert sites in Virginia, Georgia, Florida,
Louisiana, and Texas. Their goal? To gain valuable concert experience
while promoting the Conservatory to renowned performing arts schools
throughout the South.
Appointment to the Oberlin Jazz Septet (OJS) is a
prestigious honor. The group performs regularly on and off campus
and has shared the stage with big-name jazz professionals at venues
such as the Detroit International Jazz Festival. Formed in 1992,
its student members are selected each spring by professors of jazz
studies. This year's group includes Josiah Woodson '03, trumpet;
Andrea Murchison '04, trombone; Nicholas Lyons '04, saxophone; Courtney
Bryan '04, piano; Robert Adkins '05, bass; Jason McMahon '05, guitar;
and Patrick Barter '06, drums.
The septet's faculty sponsor, Professor of Jazz Studies
and Bass Peter Dominguez, says the students were thrilled with the
prospect of traveling this year. There was a catch, however: "They
had to do all of the work themselves."
Enter Ivy Newman '04, a composition major and jazz
septet aficionado, who quickly assumed the invaluable role of tour
manager. For months prior to the trip, she worked with the Conservatory
and Alumni Association offices to book gigs, contact alumni, and
reserve hotel rooms and minivans. On the road, she served as the
musicians' designated wake-up caller, appointment maker, and bunk-down
coordinator, a task made easy by 10 alumni who opened their homes
along the way.
Newman's parents hosted the group for two nights in
Richmond, Virginia, during the first of several successful performance
stops. At Huguenot High and Chimborazo Elementary schools, audiences
swayed to the tunes of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. "Playing
for the elementary students was among my favorite experiences,"
says McMahon, the guitarist. "They were all so curious. We
played a game of 'name the instrument,' answered questions, then
performed some of our original compositions."
"The high-school students were very enthusiastic,"
adds Newman. "It was exciting to learn that a few of them had
already applied to Oberlin for next fall."
As the two-and-a-half-week tour pressed on, the group
became increasingly im-pressed with the interest displayed by alums;
several regional clubs even organized concert venues, such as an
evening performance at the Big Easy Club in Houston. "We had
a really good time listening to jazz music and serving the stu-
dents breakfast," says host Jim Claghorn '57.
In Jacksonville, Florida, Andy Harold '90 and Carolyn
Rosenberry '65 organized a concert for 75 people at Arlington Congregational
Church. Harold says he acted quickly after reading an e-mail from
the Alumni Association last fall announcing the tour. "We don't
have enough active alumni in Florida, so when this event came up,
I saw it as a great way to get some Obies to come out."
Rosenberry and her husband, Terrone '65, hosted several
students during their two-day Florida stay, and, along with Jessica
Berber Pate '80, prepared a potluck dinner for the group. "They
had a jam session in our living room. I was blown away--physically
and literally," she laughs.
Alumni appreciation continued in New Orleans, where
OJS members were guests at an Orpheum Theater concert featuring
the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Michael Christie
Coasting through the southern states, OJS performed
at a Henry Gray High School fundraising event in Atlanta, kicked
off the Coastal Jazz Association's 2003 concert series in Savannah,
and even got in an impromptu performance at the Funky Butt Jazz
Club in New Orleans. The tour ended with a visit to the Houston
School for Performing and Visual Arts.
"At first the thought of being an ambassador
for the entire Conservatory was a little intimidating, but once
we got on the road and started playing, I felt truly honored,"
says McMahon. "When I was in high school, I would have loved
having a local college come play for us, let alone a world-class
As the miles of swampland and moss-covered trees became
a blur, the musicians returned to Oberlin, exhausted yet exhilarated.
"Most rewarding for me was the opportunity to work in arts
management," reflects Newman. "Most challenging was having
to boss around my peers.
"Before the tour, we had hoped to give
school students a taste of Oberlin's excellent jazz studies program,"
she adds. "Weeks later, we returned safely to Oberlin, our