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Jazz groups to end year on a high note

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This year, Bethel College jazz groups have impressed Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) clinicians and played alongside large university bands at the Wichita Jazz Festival. They’ll finish out at home with Bethel’s perennial Jazz on the Green spring event.

Jazz Ensembles I and II will join with the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble, a high school group, Wednesday, May 12, at 8 p.m. As the name indicates, Jazz on the Green takes place on the Green in the middle of campus in front of the Administration Building. In case of bad weather, the concert moves into Memorial Hall. It is free and open to the public.

“I’m really excited to have all three groups playing,” said James Pisano, Bethel College assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies.

“We’ve had a great year and this is culmination of that forward momentum we’ve been building. It’s a great concert to showcase that,” he added.

Between the three ensembles the audience will experience a variety of styles, textures and voicing, Pisano said. Genres range from traditional swing to modern contemporary funk. “There’s something for everyone,” he said.

Jazz Ensemble II will start with evening with “Red Eye” by Denis Diblasio, “Beyond the Sea” by Charles Trenet and “Cablevision” by George Shutack.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble follows with “Hickory and Twine” by Alan Baylock, “They Can’t Take that Away From Me” by George Gershwin and “The Road Not Taken…” by Darren Jenkins.

Jazz Ensemble I will conclude the evening. Repertoire includes “Got What?!” by Steve Owen, “Second Race” by Thad Jones, “Randi” by Phil Woods and “Jazz Crimes” by Josh Redman.

Jazz on the Green is the only on-campus jazz performance this semester and will highlight the contributions of for three graduating seniors: Evan Fast, Goessel, Christian Loganbill, Goessel, and Bradley McKellip, Newton.

“They’ve been integral members. They are non-majors [in music], but they’ve contributed at a very high musical level, as everybody does,” said Pisano.

“These three are very important members, to the group and to the musical community of Bethel as a whole,” Pisano added. “I’m certainly going to miss their contributions.”

Loganbill and Fast, both business majors, and McKellip, an English major, have participated in Bethel jazz groups all four years. They demonstrate the well-roundedness of a liberal arts education, said Pisano.

“I hope they take the discipline they put into this group into their professional careers,” he added.

“[Playing jazz] helped give me a multi-faceted experience at Bethel,” said Loganbill. “The opportunity to do many different things is one reason I chose Bethel, and jazz band helped contribute to the college experience I wanted. It has been an honor to play with such amazing musicians as we have [here].”

"Playing in the jazz band has been one of the highlights of my college career," Fast added. "I didn't have the opportunity to play in a jazz band during high school, so [it] opened my eyes, and ears, to a completely different genre of music.

"I'm really excited for the upcoming concert," he continued. "I believe we are playing at a higher level than ever. ... Because we don't have any strict time limits, like we had for our KMEA and Wichita Jazz Festival performances, the soloists will have the opportunity to play some really awesome stuff."

During the program, a freewill offering will be taken to support Bethel College’s jazz studies program.

Personnel for Jazz Ensemble II include: saxophones, Andrew Unruh, sophomore from Valley Center, Amy Flax, senior from Brownell, and Ryan Goertzen, junior from Goessel; baritone saxophone and vocals, Naomi Graber, sophomore from Elkhart, Ind.; cello, Anna Cook, sophomore from Lawrence; bass, Ruth Wiens, freshman from Newton; guitar, Megan Siebert, freshman from Topeka; and drums, Ryan Cummins, freshman from Joshua, Texas.

Personnel for Jazz Ensemble I include: saxophones, Jordan Ortman, freshman from Freeman, S.D., Evan Fast, senior from Goessel, Joel Boettger, freshman from Hesston, Paul Voran, freshman from Newton, and Camden Pankratz, sophomore from North Newton; trombones, Benjamin Harder, senior from Hesston, Christian Loganbill, senior from Wichita, and Eric Goering, sophomore from McPherson; trumpets, Alex Boldt, junior from Parlier, Calif., Kyle Doesken, sophomore from Derby, Austin McCabe-Juhnke, senior from North Newton, and Kyle Unruh, senior from Goessel; drums, Nathaniel Yoder, senior from Kalona, Iowa; bass, Landon Bartel, freshman from Newton; guitar, Bradley McKellip, senior from Newton; and piano, Ben Stucky, senior from Moon Township, Pa.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble is a high school honor group consisting of students from various high schools throughout the region. The students, selected by audition, rehearse under the direction of James Pisano.

Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble personnel include: trumpets, Richard Paugh, Goddard, Dezuan Hill, Wichita East, Rachael Osborn, Goddard, Cameron Genteman, Goddard, and Braden Unruh, Wichita Heights; trombones, Matt Davis, Goddard, Zach Rich, Maize, and Alex Russi, Wichita East; saxophones, Daniel Barrera (alto), Newton, Lance Ponder (alto), Wichita East, Luke Young (tenor), Wichita Heights, and Lindsey Regier (tenor), Newton; piano, Autumn Nance, Goddard; guitar, Dustin Chau, Wichita East; bass, Eric Perkins, Goddard; and drums, Rami Stucky, Wichita East.

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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