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Bethel Jazz groups score high at Greeley jazz festival

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- The Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I and Bethel College Jazz Combo did a mini-tour to Colorado April 21-24, bringing home high marks from the University of Northern Colorado/Greeley Jazz Festival in Greeley, Colo. The festival is the largest of its kind in the country. This year, it hosted 300 junior high, high school and college jazz groups from 12 states.

Although the Bethel College Jazz Combo traveled to Greeley three years ago, this is the first time in more than 20 years a large jazz ensemble from Bethel has gone to the festival, and the first time both have appeared together.

All the groups at the festival performed for two adjudicators for a rating and constructive feedback, as well as a clinic with one of the adjudicators. Both Bethel groups received the highest rating of I (Excellent) from all adjudicators.

This was the first time both ensembles received a I rating from all of the judges at a jazz festival. Director Stephen Jones, Bethel College instructor of music, said of the groups, "I am proud of the students’ accomplishments both at this festival and all year. They are a fine group of players and individuals, and unusually strong for a school of this size.

"I’m also very proud of the way they conducted themselves on this tour," Jones said. "I feel they have taken a great deal of pride in and ownership of what they’re doing."

In addition to playing at the jazz festival, both the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo performed at First Mennonite Church, Denver, and Boulder Mennonite Church.

The majority of the comments the groups received from their judges were overwhelmingly positive, Jones said. Comments included: "Really well done. Nice texture......beautiful solo, nice rhythm section stuff, good dynamics, good flow" and "Very, very musical stuff. I really enjoyed that. Nice writing, nice playing."

Jones received an additional honor from one of the judges. The Jazz Ensemble performed one of Jones’ original arrangements, written specifically for this year’s group. Judge Rob Tapper, a trombonist and director of Jazz Studies at Eastern Washington University, liked the arrangement so much that he offered to purchase a copy to perform with his own university ensembles.

The judges recognized several individual band members as well. Those who received special citations for outstanding musicianship were freshman Brett Jackson, North Newton, on soprano and alto saxophone; freshman Joel Linscheid, North Newton, on tenor saxophone; sophomore Jerel Fast, Boulder, on trombone; sophomore Aaron Linscheid, North Newton, on trumpet and flugelhorn; junior Matt Steinmetz, Bluffton, Ohio, on guitar; and sophomore Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord, Wichita, on piano.

Members of the Jazz Combo are: senior Andy Gingerich, Albuquerque, on bass; Gingrich-Gaylord; Fast, Jackson; Aaron Linscheid; Joel Linscheid; senior Jesse Overright, Normal, Ill., on drums; and Steinmetz.

Members of Jazz Ensemble I are: sophomores Nathan Eigsti, Hesston, Julie Fromm, Newton, and Jess Rempel, Denver, and Jackson and Joel Linscheid on saxophones; sophomores D.J. Bookout, Pretty Prairie, Aaron Linscheid and Kelcy Voth, Goessel, and freshman Andrew Cornwell, Lawrence, on trumpets; seniors Russell Adrian, Butterfield, Minn., and Michael McKitrick, Brandon, Fla., Fast and 2004 Bethel graduate Ryan O’Reilly, North Newton, on trombones; sophomore Josh Piper, Newton, on piano; Steinmetz on guitar; Gingerich on bass; and Overright on drums.

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