The University of Kansas Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Dan Gailey, performed April 12 at the Appel Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The program included selections from Charlie Parker, Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington, along with compositions by a KU alumnus and a current student.
The ensemble performed the world premiere of “Bright Day Moon” composed by Andrew Linn, u’10, who attended the concert. The group also played “Everybody is with Everybody Else,” by Kai Ono, a junior piano major from Irvine, California. Ono won the 2016 Downbeat Student Music Award for Outstanding Original Composition.
KU Jazz Ensemble I has received 23 Downbeat Student Music Awards, including Best Large Jazz Ensemble 2015 in the Graduate Division.
Joining the ensemble in New York was acclaimed jazz vocalist Deborah Brown, a Kansas City, Missouri, native who has performed in more than 50 countries and recorded 11 albums.
Playing on one of jazz’s most celebrated stages with Brown was “a really great feeling,” says trombonist Fern Stevermer, a junior from Fulton, Missouri. “The School of Music gives us so many opportunities, great faculty and great experiences. It gets us ready to go out in the world as prepared musicians.”
Alumni support helped make the students’ trip possible. Lead sponsors of the performance were James Zakoura, c’70, l’72; Reach Out Kansas Inc.; the Law Offices of Smithyman & Zakoura; and the Zakoura Family Foundation.
Watch our video below for highlights from the performance and comments from students. A slideshow of additional photos from the rehearsal, reception and performance is below the video. Photos and video by Dan Storey.
Kansas City cartoonist, illustrator, barbecue-sauce impresario and frequent Kansas Alumni magazine contributor Charlie Podrebarac, ’81, is getting in the swing of things in anticipation of Saturday’s Jazz Border Showdown 2, the second-annual battle of the bands between KU’s Jazz Ensemble I, directed by Dan Gailey, and Mizzou’s Concert Jazz Band, directed by Arthur White.
And since Podrebarac brightened our day with this surprise contribution, we thought it might do the same for Jayhawk jazz lovers everywhere.
The big border gig will feature shows at 8 and 9:30 p.m. in The Blue Room at the American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St., in Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets are $10, and more information can be found at club.americanjazzmuseum.org.
To see more of Podrebarac’s fun-loving art, visit arttogogo.com; to check out some fun-loving and delicious holiday gift ideas, amble over to cowtownbbq.com.
When Meggan Holt, f’02, was a senior in high school, she had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Germany. Fast forward to 2001: An opportunity to study abroad arose during her fifth year at KU; three months later, she was on a plane to Frankfurt.
Meggan says she never planned to stay in Germany. “On the contrary, I had interviewed for a graphic design position at Hallmark in Kansas City. They said, ‘Give us a call when you get back from Germany.'” That day never came. “Since I had no obligations in the states, I decided to stay in Germany as long as it was possible. Twelve years later, I’m still here!” she explains.
Although she teaches English to business professionals, Meggan is still involved in music and design. She joined the Symphonic Choir of Hamburg in 2010 and has also designed the concert promotional materials since 2012.
What made you decide to attend KU?
I decided to attend KU for many reasons, including the reputation of the design and music departments, and I wanted to be involved in activities outside of my program of study. Since I have such a variety of interests, I wanted to be at a university that would allow me to study design, be involved in the different bands, continue improving my German, as well as other extracurricular programs.
What is your favorite KU tradition or KU memory?
Waving the wheat, although, to be honest, I think I was always in the band playing during those times! When I catch a game online now, though, one can see me waving the wheat with the best of them!
What groups or activities were you involved with while at KU?
I was involved in many activities while I was at KU, including marching, concert and women’s basketball bands, Tau Beta Sigma (honorary band sorority) Campus Christians, and AIGA.
What’s your favorite thing about Lawrence?
The sense of community. I felt there was definitely a relationship between the city and the university; something that is not present in all college towns. And who couldn’t love Mass Street?!
What do you love most about KU Homecoming?
ALUMNI BAND! Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to participate once. But I will be attending Homecoming again this year! I planned my visit to the states around it. I knew that I would have fun being part of Alumni Band and seeing old friends again. However, I had no idea just how much fun it would be! The best part about it is how the alumni and current band members are integrated.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Find a way to study abroad for a semester or year. Yes, I am definitely an exception to the rule because I stayed abroad! But I hope this will encourage students to not give up on dreams that seem impossible. I didn’t think I would be able to come back to Germany, other than possibly for vacation, let alone live here. What an amazing adventure!
This year’s Homecoming theme, Jayhawks Around the World, celebrates the University’s global reach in terms of international students and faculty, research discoveries that change the world and the achievements of KU alumni, who live in 150 countries around the globe. Visit www.kualumni.org/homecoming for a schedule of events and to learn more about KU’s Homecoming tradition.
Jim Doepke, aka “Mr. Trumpet,” is making progress in his quest to play the national anthem at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. On July 22, Doepke, d’74, belted out “The Star Spangled Banner” on his trumpet at Safeco Field in Seattle–the 10th Major League ball park he has appeared in.
A high school band director in Wisconsin who retired in Florida in 2007, Doepke began carrying his trumpet into the stands when cheering for his hometown Milwaukee Brewers. He was soon adopted by the team and was chosen to play the anthem at the opening of Miller Park in 2001. After multiple appearances in Milwaukee, he hit on the idea of taking his show on the road.
“I’ve always gotten a lot of satisfaction from playing the national anthem, and I decided it would be a kick to do it at every Major League park,” Doepke told Kansas Alumni magazine in 2009. He also plays for military honor ceremonies and has sounded taps at Arlington National Cemetery. Also high on his list of trumpet triumphs: playing before KU basketball games in Allen Field House.
Jayhawk fans will have two opportunities to catch Doepke this season: Dec. 10 at the Alumni Association’s pregame tailgate at the KU-Florida game in Gainesville, and Dec. 21 at the KU-Georgetown game in Lawrence.
Watch the video below, or click here to view it in your browser.
We’re excited to partner with the University of Kansas Libraries this summer to present a number of events. More than 80 Jayhawks in Denver turned out for An Evening with Naismith: Artifacts of a KU Legend, and that event will be held next week in both Houston and Dallas.
The second event we’re co-hosting with the Libraries this summer is Rhythm and Meaning: Jazz at KU. Join us in Chicago, Omaha and St. Louis to see a selection of the Libraries’ rich jazz collection, including one of the largest sound archives west of the Mississippi.
The cost for each event is $15 and includes hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. We encourage you to sponsor a Jayhawk and bring along a prospective student! Current and incoming KU students can attend the events at no cost.
Staff from the KU Alumni Association and KU Libraries will attend each event to share updates from the Hill.
We hope you’ll be able to join us at one of these events to learn a little more about KU’s unique history and enjoy an evening of KU camaraderie! If you’re a member of the KU Alumni Association, be sure to bring your membership card and receive a free gift.
We like to share things that aren’t always on the radar of alumni, students and fans– like this. Did you know that the KU medical center’s campus in Kansas City is home to the Landon Center on Aging? Named for former U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum’s parents, the center includes a geriatric medicine clinic, research facilities for aging-related issues and outpatient clinics for the Department of Neurology.
The Landon Center is also home to Forever Young, a senior choir formed in 2010 and inspired by the 2007 documentary film Young@Heart. Like the choir in the film, and unlike most traditional senior choirs, Forever Young sings contemporary and classic rock songs that may not be familiar to its members–audiences are often surprised to hear grandma or grandpa singing a song by Queen rather than a classic tune like You Are My Sunshine.
The choir consists of vocalists 55-80 years old, some who have age-related impairments, and is coordinated by Landon Center social worker Myra Hyatt. Melita Belgrave, Ph.D., assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, is the director and conductor.
Forever Young performs two concerts each year, and they’re gearing up for the spring concert, “Wave Your Flag: A Night of International Rock Music,” which takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8 in Battenfeld Auditorium at the medical center. The performance is free, but donations for equipment and other costs are gladly accepted.
Check out the video below for more information about Forever Young:
Eighty student members of the KU Wind Ensemble are celebrating Spring Break in enviable fashion–preparing for their March 26 performance at renowned Carnegie Hall, where they will present the world premiere of a symphony commissioned especially for the ensemble.
The musicians and their director, Paul Popiel, will board a bus bright and early Friday, March 22, for their long-awaited journey. On Saturday, they will rehearse at The Ohio State University School of Music in Columbus, then pile back on the bus, arriving in New York City Sunday night. The itinerary for Monday includes a private tour of the 9/11 Memorial, which will provide poignant inspiration for their performance of “In the Shadow of No Towers,” a symphony by New York-based composer Mohammed Fairouz that examines life in the post 9/11 world.
Fairouz, a native New Yorker, traveled to Lawrence in February to assist in rehearsals. “Mohammed spent a lot of time creating this symphony, and it was a luxury to have him here and bounce the music back and forth with him,” Popiel says. “He gave this symphony to us, and now we must grab it and own it. Our students have the rare opportunity on one of the world’s great stages to be the professionals they aspire to be now.”
The ensemble will perform at 8 p.m. March 26 in the Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage of Carnegie Hall. Alumni and friends can purchase half-price tickets for $12.50 by using the code KAN15783. To purchase, visit www.carnegiehall.org, call Carnegie Charge at 212.247.7800 or visit the box office in New York City. Students can purchase tickets at the box office for $5 with a valid ID.
Alumnus James Zakoura commissioned Fairouz to create the symphony especially for the KU Wind Ensemble. Zakoura has provided numerous gifts to the KU School of Music, including support for performances throughout Kansas, but “In the Shadow of No Towers” represents an intense collaboration over many months. In September 2011, Zakoura met with Popiel and Fairouz. “It was very emotional,” he recalls. “I basically told them my aspirations for the piece, which was that it address an important issue, and to honor the people who lost their lives and the families and the friends that survived that. I wrote a note to Paul saying, ‘These are my hopes, that this can be positive and a wholly inspiring gift from Kansas to New York and to the world.’” And Paul told me that he took my note and put it with the score and he looks at it from time to time so that he can be reminded where we’re heading and … the important work we’re doing together.”
To follow the story of the students’ journey to Carnegie and the collaboration of Popiel, Fairouz and Zakoura, visit www.ku.edu/carnegiehall.
The University of Kansas Trumpet Ensemble represented Kansas in the 2013 Inaugural Parade after another band had to withdraw. Kansas House Representative Barbara Ballard recommended the group to inauguration planners, and with the help of generous sponsors, including the KU Alumni Association, arrangements for the trip fell into place. With only ten days and two rehearsals to prepare, the students left Lawrence Friday for the 21-hour bus ride to the nation’s capital. Under the direction of Steve Leisring, associate professor of trumpet, the group marched along the 1.3 mile parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue, playing an arrangement of the Kansas State song, “Home on the Range.”
Photos from the parade were posted on KU’s Facebook page, and a recounting of the group’s experience appeared in the University Daily Kansan when classes resumed this week. Alumni may also remember that we featured Master Sgt. Gerry Amoury, d’86, last month on this site, where he talked about his involvement in planning the Inaugural Parade. We’re proud of our patriotic Jayhawks!
A favorite KU tradition this time of year is Holiday Vespers. This year, the KU School of Music is presenting the 88th annual Holiday Vespers Dec. 2 at the Lied Center of Kansas. Tickets are $12.50/general admission and $10/students and seniors and can be purchased by visiting or calling the Lied Center Box Office, 785-864-2787. KU students who show a valid ID are FREE to the 7:30pm performance. Enjoy the sounds of the season with these video highlights from the 2009 performance. For more information about this year’s performance, visit the the KU School of Music.
Alternative rock/metal band Sevendust is back in the recording studio, and lead singer Lajon Witherspoon proudly wore a Jayhawk during a couple days of recording. It turns out Witherspoon’s wife, Ashley Meyer Witherspoon, grew up in Baldwin City and later attended Lawrence Free State High School. His mother-in-law sent him the shirt.
” I wear KU apparel here and there,” he says. “I get a lot of questions about the Jayhawk. I go all over the world.”
Witherspoon and his family now live in Overland Park. The recording session took him away from home for several weeks.
“I was missing the family,” he says, “so I put it on.”
Below is a video from one of the days Witherspoon wore his KU gear.