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Bethel College jazz ensembles to give holiday concert

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- This year’s Bethel College jazz ensembles have taken some challenges and under the direction of Stephen Jones, assistant professor of music, turned them into opportunities. Both Jazz Ensemble I and II initially encountered instrumentation challenges--Jazz I did not have a drummer and Jazz II had no brass.

Jones contacted Garrett Crow, a student drummer from Wichita State University, who agreed to play with Jazz Ensemble I in performances and some rehearsals. The absence of a drummer in other rehearsals has given the Bethel student musicians a valuable chance to improve their rhythm.

The unique instrumentation of Jazz Ensemble II has given them opportunities to explore new musical avenues and to let their own arrangements of the music evolve. Every member of the group will have the opportunity to solo and refine his or her improvisational skills.

On Friday, Dec. 9, the two jazz ensembles will present their annual winter concert at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium on the Bethel College campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

Music will include two compositions by Bret Zvacek, Jones’ former mentor at the Crane School of Music in New York. "I think they’re brilliant works that deserve to have greater exposure," Jones said.

He also spoke highly of the work the Bethel College jazz ensembles have been doing this year. He said he intentionally selected difficult music for this concert and feels like his students are doing a great job.

"Before I came here, this [winter concert] featured mostly Christmas music," said Jones. "I thought it would be more of an artistic challenge for the students to play some tougher jazz pieces.

"But for those people who want to hear Christmas music," he added, "they won’t be disappointed."

Jazz I personnel are: saxophones Nathan Eigsti, junior from Hesston; Julie Fromm, junior from Newton; Brett Jackson, sophomore from North Newton; Joel Linscheid, sophomore from North Newton; and Jess Rempel, junior from Denver, Colo.; trumpets Peter Goerzen, junior from Newton; Aaron Linscheid, junior from North Newton; Austin McCabe-Juhnke, senior at Newton High School; and Kelcy Voth, junior from Goessel; trombones: Jerel Fast, junior from Boulder, Colo.; Ben Harder, senior at Hesston High School; Ryan O’Reilly, Bethel College graduate from Newton; and Matthew Root, freshman from Topeka; rhythm players Garrett Crow, guest artist from Wichita, drums; Sam Hershberger, freshman at Hesston College, bass; Josh Piper, senior from North Newton, piano; and Matt Steinmetz, senior from Bluffton, Ohio, guitar.

Jazz II personnel are saxophones Braeden Johnson, freshman from Leoti; Rene Kaufman, freshman from Moundridge; Darren Ramsey, junior from Wichita; Marshall Sadiq, junior from Halstead; Susan Schmeichel, freshman from Hurley, S.D.; and Alex Unruh, junior from Valley Center; clarinet Chad Goering, freshman from Moundridge; and rhythm players Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, junior from Wichita, piano; Daniel Glascock, freshman from Cunningham, bass; Mark Saner, junior from Goshen, Ind., drums; and Parker Stanley, junior from Liberty, Mo., bass.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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