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Jazz on the Green an end-of-year showcase for Bethel big bands

May 4th, 2018

jazz band

Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II play this annual outdoor event in the middle of campus (moved into Krehbiel Auditorium in case of bad weather), May 9 at 8 p.m. Bring your own blankets and lawn chairs.

Joel Boettger, who this year joined the Bethel music faculty and directs Jazz Ensemble II, is a veteran of Jazz on the Green after playing five years as a Bethel student.

He said of the event, “I think it is nice to hear music not inside … a stuffy box atmosphere [but] to be outside, feel the breeze, and let your mind wander and listen to music at the same time.”

Bethel jazz groups have had a successful year, playing multiple concerts, including the Kansas Music Educators Association convention and, most recently, the Wichita Jazz Festival with guest artist Brad Leali.

James Pisano, Bethel director of jazz studies, leads Jazz I. “The band is sounding fantastic,” he said. “We have had some amazing concerts this year.”

He continued, “Jazz Ensemble II is [also] sounding fantastic. They have grown a lot this year and it will be a great opportunity for the audience to hear the fruits of the upward ascent of both groups.”

Like most Bethel College jazz concerts, this one will feature a diverse array of songs.

“I always try to program a wide variety of music, so there will be something that hopefully everyone will enjoy,” Pisano said. “Some of the numbers we have already performed this year – band favorites – but there are also new numbers that we have prepared specifically for this concert.”

Senior Westen Gesell, a member of Jazz I, added, “We have a great program set for Jazz on the Green, with pieces from all corners of the jazz genre.”

Boettger has chosen a few favorites for Jazz II to play as well, along with some more difficult pieces.

“I think Jazz Ensemble II has grown a lot, so we need to start playing harder music now and digging into things that we have not done before,” he said.

He added, “Jazz on the Green is going to be a nice way to end the school year, with a concert you can just sit and enjoy in the last week of classes, so come check it out.” Gesell said, “We slipped the weatherman some money so the weather should be perfect.”

The concert is free, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz study and performance at Bethel College.

Jazz I’s set list is “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane, arranged by Mark Taylor; “Li’L Darlin’” by Neal Hefti; “Second Race” and “Us” by Thad Jones; “Solfeggietto” by C.P.E. Bach, and “Sleepers Awake” by J.S. Bach, both arranged by Bill Cunliffe; “When the Sun Comes Out” by Harold Arlen, arranged by Tom Garling; and “Wind Machine” by Sammy Nestico.


Jazz I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, North Newton, Zane Richter, McPherson, Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Matt Lind, Newton, Caleb Abbott, Wichita, and Ben Wiens, Goessel; trumpets, Evan Koch, Connor Born, North Newton, Alec Loganbill, Hesston, Chloe LaCombe, Newton, and Gabe Johnson, Abilene; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Adam Kroeker, Augusta, Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, and Nate Kroeker, Augusta (bass trombone); piano, Matt Lind and Ian Gingrich-Gaylord; bass, Eli Brockway, McPherson; guitar, Jayce Yoder, Topeka; drums, Chuck Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, and Micah Miller Wyse, Hesston; and vocals, Elizabeth Friesen-Birky, Denver.


Jazz II’s set list is “Undecided” by Robin & Shavers, arranged by Glen Osser; “Mack the Knife” by Kurt Weill, arranged by John Berry; “Days of Wine and Roses” by Henry Mancini, arranged by John Kinyon; “Jive at Five” by Basie & Edison, arranged by John Berry; “Count Me In” by Count Basie, arranged by Bill Byers; and “Easy Money” by Benny Carter.


Jazz II personnel are: saxophones, Jacob Callison, Wichita, Jacob Anderson, Newton, Ryan Fritz, Salina, Aaron Long, Wichita, and Autumn Strecker, Goessel; trombones, Seth Larson, Wichita, Brad Shores and Ben Abel, Paola; trumpets, Chloe LaCombe, Newton, Abby Phillips, Maple Hill, and Adrian Rodgers; bass, Angus Siemens, Newton; drums, Bruce Rosario, Pollocksville, North Carolina, and Shawn Bontrager, North Newton; and piano, Kaho Yanagidaira, Nagano, Japan.

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

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to

by Sam Bertholf

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.