The Sounds of Meadville

Historical jazz influences modern concert

Fall is nearly here and so is the Allegheny College Jazz Band for its annual fall concert in the campus center lobby on Nov. 15 at 3:15 p.m.

The jazz band has 26 pieces. These pieces fit together in unique blends of rhythm, melody and harmony to create music.

This precise combination between 26 individuals simultaneously is enough to make anyone’s head spin but one person faces the challenge. That would be the person who assembles the pieces, Stephen Corsi.

Corsi is a part-time faculty member at Allegheny College who is involved in the music department, serving as the professor of percussion as well as leading and conducting three performing ensembles.

When asked about the difficulty of managing a diverse group of students such as the jazz band, Corsi said the biggest challenge is ensuring that each member is completely responsible for their unique part.

“They have to be a team,” said Corsi.

To put this in perspective the jazz band is not unlike a football team. Each band member has their own part to play just as each football player has a position. The important distinction is that in football the primary basis of judgment is the opposing team, but when the jazz band plays a Latin-infused “Day Tripper” this fall their standard is 100 percent accuracy and their basis of judgment is The Beatles.

The jazz band will play 12 songs during their concert. These songs were hand-selected by Corsi from jazz standards such as “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller, popular funk tunes like Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “Getaway” and even student requests like “L.O.V.E.” by Nat King Cole.

Corsi said his approach to song selection was multi-faceted. He said the factors that influenced him were audience recognition, group strengths and weaknesses, and traditional repertoire, but the most important factor is variety.

Jazz is an umbrella term used loosely to define an expansive historical and cultural tradition of music. From the late 19th century onward movements like swing, bebop, pop and funk have all sprouted from jazz, many of which can be heard by the jazz band at their concert.

Corsi’s goal is to embrace the diversity of jazz music and play songs that have wide audience appeal, while respecting the tradition of jazz.

Jazz band veteran Dan Kerschner, ’17, has been playing jazz music for 11 years now and when asked about the band his eyes light up.

Kerschner plays saxophone for the band and he said his favorite part is learning about the music and its history. He finds that too often people are dismissive of jazz music citing that their lack of interest is caused by misunderstanding.

“Jazz music can rock,” said Kerschner.

John Christie-Searles, assistant professor of political science, is the only faculty member in the group playing as the upright bassist.

He says the band is a commitment, but he enjoys interacting with the students outside of the classroom.

“I have never seen somebody walk away from our concert without bobbing their head,” said Christie-Searles.

The learning experience is two-fold says Corsi. For the students and hopefully for the audience as well.

“Whether you’re supporting a friend or want to learn more about Jazz, don’t miss the concert,” said Kerschner.