Jazz tour connects musicians and locals

The suave sounds of the UMHB Jazz Ensemble journeyed to Memphis, Tenn., and back during the last week of February.

The band performed eight shows in four days, with a much needed break touring Memphis in the middle of the trip.

Assistant Professor and Director of athletic bands Nils Landsberg considers the trip to have been a success.

“It was a really neat experience …. I’m really proud of the group and everyone that’s been involved with it,” Landsberg said.

With hours of traveling, the group arrived back at UMHB with a stronger relationship than they had before they left. Though the band practices together, being on the road  intensified their bond.

“I think the band really started to click Monday afternoon. Things really started to come together then. It felt just real natural,” Landsberg said. “When you’re in a van for numerous hours … you don’t just gel musically, but also on a personal level.”

(Left to right) Joseph Harris (guest), Brandon Rodriguez and Edward Kahler play during their first stop of the tour. Photo by Brittany Montgomery

(Left to right) Joseph Harris (guest), Brandon Rodriguez and Edward Kahler play during their first stop of the tour. Photo by Brittany Montgomery

Not only did the tour encourage and provide opportunities for new and closer friendships, it also brought the ensemble together through the music they played.

“Musically, the band definitely gets tighter as we perform more because they realize what kind of connection you can make with people through music,” Landsberg said.

Though their performances were the focal point of the tour, the group experienced several memorable experiences with the people they met, as well.

While playing at a senior living facility in Henderson, Texas, the members had the opportunity to meet a World War II veteran, an event that Landsberg remembers as one of his favorites from the trip.

“We had no idea that he lived there, and we met him after our performance for that center and that was really a special moment for a lot of us,” he said.

Landsberg was impressed by the positive attitudes of the group despite the long hours spent traveling.

“The students did a wonderful job being ambassadors not only for the music department, but also for the university. They carried themselves well,” he said.

The ensemble had two guest artists playing with them, both of whom have been part of the annual jazz tour, which has happened for the last three years.

Freelance trumpet performer Joseph Harris has performed with some well-known artists such as Christina Aguilera, DMX and The Temptations, but still enjoys playing with the jazz ensemble musicians.

“This is my third year to be here as a guest artist, and every time the band has improved immensely,” Harris said. “Especially with an ensemble that’s mostly non-music majors, that’s a real testament to what their capabilities are as an ensemble.”

Junior music education major Jonathan Bautista plays drums in the ensemble and enjoyed the stress relief the group took part in.

“Just before we headed back to Texas, we had a dance break where we cranked the stereo to ‘Play Dat Funky Music White Boy’ and a couple of us got outside the van and started dancing. That relieved all the tension for the whole tour,” Bautista said.

One of his favorite memories from the tour was the music exchange the group did with the University of       Central Arkansas.

He said, “It was not only educational, but to experience music in that way is something special that I will have for the rest of my life.”

Author: Brittany Montgomery

Bio info coming soon!

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