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Sarah Unruh ’12

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Jazz groups ‘head south’ for annual Wichita festival

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College jazz groups have become a regular part of the lineup at the Wichita Jazz Festival, with three of them on stage this Friday.

The Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble (an auditioned high school honors group based at Bethel), Bethel College Jazz Combo I and Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I will all perform in Miller Concert Hall in the Duerksen Fine Arts Center on the Wichita State University campus, at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., respectively, Friday, April 20.

The Bethel jazz groups join other high school and college jazz musicians from around the area and the region as part of the Wichita State Jazz Invitational, which goes on all day April 20 and for which all events are free and open to the public.

Jazz Combo I will perform a mix of literature that includes a number of original compositions by members of the group.

“I am really excited about Bethel’s Jazz Combo,” said James Pisano, Bethel associate professor of music and director of jazz studies. “First of all, this year we released a CD – all original compositions by the group, recorded last year. And continuing in that tradition, the current members have arranged original compositions, as well as standards from the jazz repertoire.

“Also, it’s been a really exciting year for the Bethel jazz program, because now there is a Jazz Combo II,” he added.

Jazz Ensemble I will present a new block of music that Pisano described as “a little more traditional” than some past sets.

“Jazz Ensemble I just gave an amazing performance at the KMEA convention [in February],” Pisano said. “Some of the band directors who were in attendance and that I run into now are still talking about it. So [Bethel] had great representation, including the Wind Ensemble.

“For KMEA, we did some repertoire that was a little more contemporary, a little more modern,” Pisano continued. “Since KMEA, we’ve been playing more traditional music for jazz ensemble by composer Thad Jones.”

In fact, Jazz Ensemble I’s Wichita Jazz Festival performance will be comprised solely of works by Jones. Pisano said this will make for an interesting performance, though it was not originally planned.

Running through various works in preparation for the festival, Pisano found that Jazz Ensemble I was “really into the music of Thad Jones” – perhaps because it was so different from the KMEA pieces. So Pisano decided on a Jones-only program.

Jazz Ensemble I will be performing the Jones compositions “Low Down,” “Fingers,” “To You” and “Groove Merchant.”

“Fingers” in particular features soloists who must be “agile on their instruments,” Pisano said. Soloists will include Paul Voran, Newton, alto saxophone; Joel Boettger, Hesston, tenor saxophone; Landon Bartel, Newton, bass; Kyle Doesken, Derby, trumpet; Ian Gingrich-Gaylord, Newton, piano; Nathaniel Yoder, North Newton, percussion; and Quinn Bowers, McPherson, trombone.

The 2012 Wichita Jazz Festival takes place April 18-21 on the WSU campus and at other venues around Wichita. For complete information, see

Members of Bethel College Jazz Ensemble I are: Daniel Barrera, Newton, and Voran, alto saxophone; Jordan Ortman, Marion, S.D., and Boettger, tenor saxophone; Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D., bari sax; Alex Boldt, Parlier, Calif., Evan Koch, Colorado Springs, Colo., Taylor Stucky, Moundridge, Andrew Zehr, Newton, and Doesken, trumpet; Rebecca Trumble, Newton, Tim Shade and Bowers, trombone; Eric Goering, McPherson, bass trombone; Bartel, bass; Megan Siebert, Topeka, guitar; Gingrich-Gaylord, piano; and Yoder, drums.

Members of Bethel College Jazz Combo I are Landon Bartel, Joel Boettger, Ian Gingrich-Gaylord, Evan Koch, Paul Voran and Nathaniel Yoder.

Members of the Mid-Kansas Jazz Ensemble are: Lance Ponder (Wichita East) and Riley Sprunger (Inman), alto saxophone; Ashton Bethel (Wichita Southeast) and Jacob Penner (Hesston), tenor saxophone; Zach Hendrickson (Buhler), bari sax; Michael Raehpour (Andover), Jacob Carl (Circle) and Kevin Crouse (Maize), trumpet; Michael Koegeboehn (Maize), Zach Rich (Maize), Patrick Kliesner (Maize) and Andrew Langston (Wichita East), trombone; Connor Siler (Buhler), drums; Karla Miller (Hesston), bass; and Dustin Chau (Wichita East), guitar.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 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

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