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Christmas Gala Jazz an anticipated part of fall semester's end

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – It’s a sign of the season – the annual end-of-the-semester Christmas Gala Jazz concert at Bethel College.

Featuring Bethel College Jazz Ensembles I and II, the event takes place Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center. Admission is free, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz study and performance at Bethel.

Audiences have come to expect the mix of seasonal favorites and jazz standards.

Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Joel Linscheid, will play “Jump” by Wynton Marsalis, arranged by David Berger; “Meetin’ Time” by Benny Carter; “Afro-Blue” by Mongo Santamaria, arranged by Michael Mossman; “Embraceable You” by George Gershwin, arranged by Roy Phillipe; and an Alan Baylock arrangement of “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

Bethel College Jazz Ensemble II personnel are: saxophones, Jacob Anderson, sophomore from Newton, Aaron Long, freshman from Wichita, Alona Crigger, freshman from Melbourne Beach, Florida, Jesus Martinez, freshman from Newton, Ryan Fritz, sophomore from Salina, and Reece Hiebert, sophomore from Walton; trumpets, Gabe Johnson, freshman from Abilene, Alec Loganbill, freshman from Hesston, Isaac Dunn, junior from Fresno, California, and Abby Phillips, junior from Maple Hill; trombones, Nate Kroeker, freshman from Augusta, Seth Larson, sophomore from Wichita, Zane McHugh, sophomore from Wichita, and Ben Carlson, junior from Hurley, South Dakota; bass, Jazmynn Burris, freshman from Winfield, and Eli Brockway, freshman from McPherson; piano, Mika Patron, senior from North Newton; guitar, Doug Siemens, Newton; and drums, Adam Kauth, sophomore from Iola, and Charles Lenley, freshman from Kansas City, Missouri.

Jazz Ensemble I’s set list is “Central Park North” by Thad Jones; a Mike Crotty arrangement of “O, Holy Night”; “Exactly Like You” and “Santa Baby,” featuring the vocals of senior Jill Siebert, Topeka; selections from the Duke Ellington version of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite; and “Avenue C” by Buck Clayton as played by Count Basie.

James Pisano, Bethel director of jazz studies, directs Jazz Ensemble I.

Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, sophomore from North Newton, Ben Wiens, sophomore from Goessel, Westen Gesell, junior from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Chase Ebeling, senior from Hutchinson, and Matt Lind, junior from Harrisonburg, Virginia; trumpets, Braden Unruh, senior from Goessel, Tim Regier, senior from Newton, Connor Born, freshman from North Newton, and Alec Loganbill; trombones, Issei Tsuji, senior from Chiba, Japan, Andrew Thiesen, junior from Newton, Billie Selichnow, sophomore from Wichita, and Josh Janzen, senior from Henderson, Nebraska; French horns, Rebecca Schrag, freshman from Newton, and Suzy Ewy, freshman from Parlier, California; guitar, Jayce Yoder, freshman from Topeka; bass, Eli Brockway; piano, Matt Graber, junior from Freeman, South Dakota; and drums, Adam Voth, senior from Goddard.

Of Jazz I’s Christmas Gala program, Pisano said, “I picked this literature because it’s a balance of standards and Yuletide favorites.

Nutcracker and ‘Avenue C’ are from the libraries of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestras, which were very popular bands of the swing era. The arrangement of ‘O, Holy Night’ is a more modern take, reminiscent of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Footprints.’ ‘Central Park North’ is a high-energy funk number that has several contrasting sections. It’s like an entire jazz ensemble concert in one eight-minute chart.”

Gala Jazz has become an anticipated part of the end-of-fall-semester celebration that faculty and staff put on for students.

“Many students come from dinner, watch the concert and then attend the other planned festivities of the evening,” Pisano said. “It’s a great way to end classes, and we usually to get a large number of students in attendance, supporting their friends who are performing.

“There are many community members at the concert as well, and they often remark to me how great it is to see this student turnout. We hope this tradition continues for years to come.”

To keep up with other jazz events this school year, look for (and “Like”) Bethel College Jazz Studies on Facebook.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015-16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015-16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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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.