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Christmas Gala Jazz to round out semester of music at Bethel

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s annual holiday tradition, the Christmas Gala, is planned just for students – but the jazz concert is open to everyone.

This year’s concert – which will feature an alumnus guest artist from Kansas City – is Friday, Dec. 2, at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. It is free, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz study and programming at Bethel College.

After starting out the year with Fall Festival appearances, Bethel’s Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II will round out the semester with the traditional Christmas Gala concert.

“We had very successful Fall Festival performances with both groups,” said James Pisano, jazz studies director and associate professor of music. “Jazz I also [shared the stage] with the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble in November, another [great] concert. The group has been on an upward progression.”

Christmas Gala is the special end-of-fall-semester event for students that includes a special dinner, horse-drawn carriage rides, a reception with President Perry and Dalene White and Santa Claus at Goerz House and a dance, in addition to Gala Jazz.

The concert will feature a broad span of music that should appeal to everyone, Pisano said.

“We are doing a lot of varied music,” he said. “There will be something for everyone. We will be doing everything from Count Basie and Joni Mitchell to some holiday classics.”

Concert numbers include “Pretty Road” by Maria Schneider, “Some Skunk Funk” by Randy Brecker (arr. Vince Mendoza) and “Polar Ice” by Jeff Jarvis, plus music from the Count Basie Band and some holiday pieces.

A special feature of this year’s Christmas Gala Jazz will be guest soloist Aaron Linscheid, trumpet and flugelhorn, on two numbers. Linscheid, a 2007 Bethel graduate who grew up in North Newton, recently completed master’s degrees in trumpet performance and jazz studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. The concert will also showcase “several outstanding student soloists,” Pisano said.

The groups have been working hard to prepare pieces for the concert, he added. “It’s a culmination of the work that has been focused on throughout the semester. And the intensity is very high, because we have prepared this music to a high level.

“The students have a lot of momentum heading into finals week. [Christmas Gala Jazz] is a great way to end the semester. Every year when I get on stage for this concert, the energy of the first note is great to feel.”

Pisano said he is already looking forward to spring semester performances: a KMEA appearance in February for Jazz I, the Wichita Jazz Festival and Jazz on the Green to round out the year.

Jazz Ensemble I personnel are: alto saxophones, Daniel Barrera, Newton, and Paul Voran, Newton; tenor saxophones, Joel Boettger, Hesston, and Jordan Ortman, Marion, S.D.; baritone saxophone, Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D.; trumpets, Kyle Doesken, Derby, Evan Koch, Colorado Springs, Colo., Taylor Stucky, Moundridge, and Andrew Zehr, Newton; trombones, Rebecca Trumble, Newton, and Quinn Bowers, McPherson; bass trombone, Eric Goering, McPherson; drums, Nathaniel Yoder, North Newton; bass, Landon Bartel, Newton; guitar, Megan Siebert, Topeka; piano, Ian Gingrich-Gaylord, Newton; and vocals, Renee Reimer, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Jazz Ensemble II personnel are: saxophones, Naomi Graber, Elkhart, Ind., and Emily Simpson, Gobles, Mich.; baritone saxophone, Andrew Unruh, Valley Center; cello, Anna Cook, Lawrence; trombone, Sarah Evans, Colorado Springs, Colo.; trumpets, Ethan Knight, Moundridge, Matt Shelly, Newton, and Garret Byler, Hesston; piano and vocals, Renee Reimer; guitar, Megan Siebert, Topeka; bass, Joe Kondziola, North Newton; and drums, Adam Voth, Wichita.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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