ISU jazz features diversity

Stephanie Yost

From National Merit scholars and Grammy winners to aerospace engineering, music and education majors, Iowa State’s Jazz I ensemble has quite an eclectic blend of members.

The Jazz I ensemble is a, “representation of some of the best jazz musicians in Iowa,” said James Bovinette, director of Jazz Ensembles I and II.

According to Bovinette, Jazz I has a high rate of National Merit scholars who excel not only in academics but also in music.

Other members of the ensemble include Vally High School students, from West Des Moines, who helped their high school music program win a 1999 Grammy.

Valley was named the National Grammy Signature School. Schools selected to be a part of the Grammy Signature School Program demonstrated outstanding performance skills and have fought to keep music education alive.

“Music majors only make up a small percentage [of Jazz I],” said Ryan Vanderhelm, trumpet player for the ensemble. “Every major is represented at one time.”

According to Bovinette, assistant professor of music, the ensemble is much like chamber music in that each instrument plays its own part.

The 18 to 20 piece group has of trumpets, trombones, saxophones and a rhythm section including drums, bass, guitar and piano.

The group plays all types of jazz ranging from Duke Ellington swing to modern jazz, said Vanderhelm, senior in music and finance.

“It is music that is improvised,” Bovinette said.

According to Vanderhelm, doing improv is his favorite part of playing with the ensemble.

“It’s great to be able to make music spontaneously within actual music,” he said.

Jazz I is the top jazz ensemble at Iowa State.

The literature it plays is more advanced than Jazz II, Bovinette said, and its standard of improv is also different.

Although, there is “no difference in playing quality [between the two ensembles],” Bovinette said.

Jazz I performs two concerts every semester, usually one with Jazz II and another with other bands in the music department.

It is tentatively planning a tour for this coming spring at the Eau Claire Jazz Festival in Eau Claire, Wis. said Vanderhelm.

Future plans for the group include to “grow together as musicians and create an entertaining environment for the audience,” he said.

Jazz I will perform with Jazz II on 7:30 p.m. Friday in Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall. Admission will be charged.

It will also be featured during the upcoming Band Extravaganza.

“Jazz is an art form that should be recognized,” Vanderhelm said. “Its roots are in America.”