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New music professor has rich jazz experience

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – When the Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I takes the stage for their first concert of the school year, they will do so under the direction of first-year music professor James Pisano.

On Monday, Dec. 4, Pisano will direct this year’s Jazz Ensemble I in the annual holiday concert at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. Admission is free and open to the public.

Note that unlike other years, the concert will not take place during the annual Christmas Gala. A smaller jazz group will play for that event, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8, also in Krehbiel Auditorium and also free.

The Dec. 4 program will consist of a variety of music for large jazz ensembles, ranging from traditional composers to more modern ones like Thad Jones and Bob Mintzer.

Pisano, assistant professor of music, joined the Bethel faculty last summer after Stephen Jones moved on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Illinois.

Pisano is a professional saxophonist who has traveled and performed with numerous bands and notable individuals. He is a member of the Jazz Heritage Orchestra, an artist-in-residence group at Cleveland State University. He has performed at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival with the Dizzy Gillespie Reunion Big Band and the Lionel Hampton New York Big Band.

He has also played or toured with numerous bands performing music of the classical swing era, including Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Cab Callaway and Gene Krupa. He has also performed at Clark Terry’s 80th and 85th birthday celebrations.

Before coming to Bethel, Pisano was the director of jazz studies/saxophone studies at the University of Idaho.

Pisano, whose wife Kristin is an assistant professor of clarinet and saxophone at Fort Hays State University, applied for the Bethel job shortly after learning about the position opening last summer.

“I have found Bethel College to be a very positive and encouraging environment,” he said.

“I would like the jazz program to continue to grow and expand musically,” he continued. “I want to provide the students and community with a high level of jazz education and performing experience.”

Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: on saxophone, senior Nathan Eigsti, Hesston, juniors Brett Jackson, North Newton, Joel Linscheid, North Newton, and Darren Ramsey, Wichita, and freshman Evan Fast, Goessel; on trombone, senior Jerel Fast, Boulder, Colo., junior Andy Toews, North Newton, and freshmen Ben Harder, Hesston, and Christian Loganbill, Wichita; on trumpet, seniors Aaron Linscheid, North Newton, and Kelcy Voth, Goessel, and freshmen Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton, and Kyle Unruh, Goessel; and on rhythm, senior Josh Piper (piano), North Newton, juniors Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord (piano), Newton, and Blake Long (vibes), Moran, and freshmen Brad McKellip (guitar), Newton, and Nate Yoder (drums), Kalona, Iowa, with Hesston College student Sam Hershberger on 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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