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Afternoon of jazz features student compositions, guest artists

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Christmas Gala Jazz is coming up at Bethel College, but you can get more of your live jazz fix before that with a special concert Nov. 19.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble (MKJE) and Bethel Jazz Combo I will play at 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The concert is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support MKJE and Bethel jazz studies.

Jim Pisano, director of jazz studies at Bethel, leads MKJE, and also works with Jazz Combo I.

Jazz Combo I is Neil Smucker, senior from North Newton, on alto saxophone, Westen Gesell, senior from Winnipeg, Manitoba, on tenor saxophone, Evan Koch, fifth-year from North Newton, on trumpet, Jayce Yoder, junior from Topeka, on guitar, Eli Brockway, junior from McPherson, on bass, Chuck Lenley, sophomore from Kansas City, Missouri, on drums, and Ian Gingrich-Gaylord on keys.

Combo set lists often feature compositions or arrangements by student members, which is true of Jazz Combo I’s Nov. 19 program.

It includes Smucker’s composition “Entomology” and Gesell’s composition “Jaunt.” Smucker received a URICA Scholar grant for work in composition this past summer (URICA stands for Undergraduate Research, Internships and Creative Activity).

Also on Jazz Combo I’s program are “Juju” and “Yes or No,” both by Wayne Shorter, and “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green.

Their Nov. 19 appearance is a preview for the Kansas Music Educators Association convention in Wichita in February, at which Bethel Jazz Combo I will be performing.

MKJE is an auditioned high school honors jazz band in residence at Bethel. MKJE usually plays fall and spring concerts at Bethel, in collaboration with one or more Bethel jazz ensembles and often with one or more guest artists.

This year’s MKJE spring workshop guest, just announced, is alto saxophonist Brad Leali, who will be on campus for the day-long workshop and evening concert April 5.

MKJE personnel is: in the saxophone section, Eli Regier (alto), Newton High School, Hannah Holler (alto), Norwich High School, Joel Lewis (tenor), Derby High School, Blake Crawford (tenor), Newton, and AJ Dugan (baritone), Newton; in the trombone section, Justin Koegeboehn, Maize High School, Sam Bartel, Hesston High School, Jackson Ellis, Derby, and Blake Davis, Maize; in the trumpet section, Stephen Brubaker, Buhler High School, Camden Baxter, Andover Central High School, Josh Bergman, Newton, and Adam Schmidt, Derby; and in the rhythm section, Talin Goebel (drums), McPherson High School, Jimmy Higgins (drums), Wichita East High School, Brady Volkmann (guitar), Bishop Carroll High School, Douglas Ragon (piano), Newton, and Peter Porcaro (bass), Wichita Collegiate High School.

MKJE will play “Shiny Stockings” by Frank Foster, “Cottontail” by Duke Ellington (arranged by Mark Taylor), “Hymn for Her” by Fred Sturm, and “Recorda Me” by Joe Henderson (arranged by Mark Taylor).

Guest artists for the Nov. 19 performance are Bethel jazz faculty Joel Boettger on saxophone and Kim Trujillo on drums.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.