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Bethel-based jazz ensembles to heat up the stage

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel jazz will continue its tradition of exciting performances when two groups give their first concerts of the season.

The Newton Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble and Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I will give a joint concert Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. Both groups perform under the direction of James Pisano, associate professor of music and director of jazz studies at Bethel. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble is an auditioned high school honors jazz band, made up of students from local high schools. Auditions for the group were held in October.

“There was quite a turnout [for auditions] this year,” said Pisano. “At this year’s Jazz Education Network convention in St. Louis, I bumped into Mike Steinel, who was Bethel College jazz artist-in-residence when the Mid-Kansas Jazz ensemble was formed in 1980 – this will make it the 30th anniversary of the group. Mike is thrilled that the ensemble is back in residence at Bethel and that I have taken it over.”

Jazz Ensemble I will open the concert with “Big Dipper” by Thad Jones; “Dolphin Dance” by Herbie Hancock (arr. Bob Mintzer); “Exactly Like You” and “Come Fly with Me,” both by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Husen and arranged by Quincy Jones; “Hang Gliding” by Maria Schneider; and “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane (arr. Mark Taylor).

As its title suggests, “Hang Gliding” is meant to invoke the feeling of the experience of hang gliding, as described by Schneider. “‘Hang Gliding’ is entirely about movement,” she has written of the piece, “an impression of my experience of hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro: the suspension, grace, lift and acceleration accompanied by the rush of apprehension and exhilaration.”

Renee Reimer, sophomore from Sioux Falls, S.D., will join Jazz Ensemble I on vocals for “Exactly Like You” and “Come Fly With Me.”

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble will follow with four pieces: “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” by Cole Porter (arr. George Stone); “Fable of Faubus” by Charles Mingus (arr. David Snider); “Prelude to a Kiss” by Duke Ellington (arr. Dave Wolpe); and “Aim High” by Fred Sturm.

“‘Fables of Faubus’ is quite a political statement,” said Pisano. “[It is] Mingus’s musical reaction to Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus’s use of the National Guard to stop African Americans from attending Little Rock Central High School [in 1957] as part of federally ordered racial desegregation.”

Upcoming jazz at Bethel includes the annual Christmas Gala Jazz Concert, Friday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium, which features Bethel College Jazz Ensembles I and II and is open to the public.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble, as well as the Bethel College Jazz Combo, will play at the Kansas Music Educators Association conference in February 2011 at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita. This is the fourth year in a row that a Bethel jazz group has been invited to perform at the conference.

Jazz Combo will play Friday, Feb. 25, at 4 p.m., and the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble the following day, Feb. 26, at 9:25 a.m.

Members of the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble include: alto saxophones, Lance Ponder (Wichita East) and Lindsey Regier (Newton); tenor saxophones, Kendall Slovack (Derby) and Terry Vickroy (McPherson); baritone saxophone, Jeremy Thomas (Wichita Southeast); trumpets, Isaac Hopkins (McPherson), Michael Raehpour (Andover Central) and Tim Regier (Newton); trombones, Quinn Bowers (McPherson), Michael Koegeboehn (Maize), Zach Rich (Maize) and Sara Wilkes (Wichita East); drums, James Conner (Newton); bass, Charles Bradfield (Derby); and guitar, Dustin Chau (Wichita East).

Members of Jazz Ensemble I are: alto saxophones, Daniel Barrera, freshman from Newton, and Paul Voran, sophomore from Newton; tenor saxophones, Joel Boettger, sophomore from Hesston, and Jordan Ortman, sophomore from Marion, S.D.; baritone saxophone, Heather Garrison, senior from Haysville; trumpets, Kyle Doesken, junior from Derby, Evan Koch, freshman from Colorado Springs, Colo., Austin McCabe-Juhnke, senior from North Newton, Taylor Stucky, freshman from Moundridge, and Kyle Unruh, senior from Goessel; trombones, Eric Goering, junior from McPherson, Benjamin Harder, senior from Newton, and Rebecca Trumble, freshman from Newton; drums, Nathaniel Yoder, senior from Kalona, Iowa; bass, Landon Bartel, sophomore from Newton; guitar, Megan Siebert, sophomore from Topeka; and piano, community member Ian Gingrich-Gaylord.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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