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Jazz groups to perform at Wichita Jazz Festival

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Two Bethel College jazz groups will perform at the 2009 Wichita Jazz Festival, on the campus of Wichita State University, April 17.

Jazz Combo will play that day at 6 p.m. in Room C107 of Duerksen Fine Arts Center. The repertoire will be originals and arrangements by group members. Jazz Ensemble I will play at 7 p.m. in Miller Concert Hall, also in Duerksen Fine Arts Center. Jazz I’s program includes “Basie – Straight Ahead” by Sammy Nestico; “Lester Left Town” by Wayne Shorter (arr. Mike Crotty); and two numbers by Thad Jones, “Walkin’ About” and “Little Pixie.” Both groups are under the direction of James Pisano, Bethel College director of jazz studies.

Jazz Combo personnel are Benjamin Harder, junior from Hesston, on trombone; Brett Jackson and Joel Linscheid, both seniors from North Newton, on saxophone; Austin McCabe-Juhnke, junior from North Newton, on trumpet; Bradley McKellip, junior from Newton, on guitar and bass; Ben Stucky, sophomore from Moon Township, Pa., on piano; and Nathaniel Yoder, junior from Kalona, Iowa, on drums.

Jazz Ensemble I personnel, in addition to the members of Jazz Combo, are Kyle Claassen, junior from Andover, Evan Fast, junior from Goessel, and Camden Pankratz, freshman from North Newton, on saxophone; Eric Goering, freshman from McPherson, Christian Loganbill, junior from Wichita, and Andrew Toews, senior from North Newton, on trombone; Genevieve Rucker, sophomore from Lawrence, on French horn; Alex Boldt, sophomore from Parlier, Calif., Kyle Doesken, freshman from Derby, and Kyle Unruh, junior from Goessel, on trumpet; and Michael Voth, senior from Topeka, on bass.

James Pisano holds degrees in clarinet performance from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Miami, where he was a member of the award-winning Concert Jazz Band. As a clarinetist, Pisano has performed in the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, the Florida Philharmonic, the Miami City Ballet and the Wichita Grand Opera orchestra as well as at Carnegie Hall numerous times under the baton of composer John Rutter.

On jazz saxophone, Pisano has shared the stage as a soloist with jazz luminaries such as Phil Woods, Frank Foster, Louie Bellson, Clark Terry, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Hank Jones, The Lionel Hampton Big Band, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, The Artie Shaw Band, The Cab Calloway Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie Reunion Big Band, among many others. Pisano maintains an active performance schedule – most notably as a member of the saxophone section of the Jazz Heritage Orchestra (Cleveland, Ohio) since 2001.

Pisano’s previous teaching positions have included director of jazz studies at East Tennessee State University, where he implemented the first ETSU Jazz Festival, and director of jazz studies at the University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton School of Music, where he developed a faculty jazz sextet and expanded the curriculum to include advanced improvisation.

The 38th Annual Wichita Jazz Festival takes place in Duerksen Fine Arts Center on the WSU campus April 15-18. Friday, April 17, is an all-day event involving area middle school and high school jazz ensembles and combos and some of the best college and university big bands and jazz groups throughout the Midwest.

WSU’s Tom Fowler retires this year after more than 20 years as the jazz festival’s educational director. In addition to working with WSU student musicians, Fowler performs with Hillside Blues, Wichita Jazz Orchestra, Air Capital Jazz Band and the Music Theatre of Wichita Orchestra.

Tickets for the April 17 all-day jazz event are $10 for the day, on sale the WSU Fine Arts Box, phone 316-978-3233.

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 was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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