Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor
The Berry College Jazz Ensemble will perform at the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA) conference in Athens, Ga., today. This is the second time in four years that the Berry jazz band has earned a spot at the conference, and this year they are the only college jazz band performing.
John David, the director of the ensemble, has been in his position for seven years, and he is honored that the ensemble was given this opportunity.
“You have to submit a recording to be considered, so it’s an audition-based thing,” David said. “We were selected back in 2015 and we played in Savannah. This year I submitted a recording this summer for 2019 and we got selected. We’re the only college jazz band that was selected.”
The pieces David chose for the program cover a wide range of jazz music, including arrangements in the classic style, as well as a few more modern pieces featuring professional drummer Keith Carlock, one of three guest performers that will be playing with the ensemble at the conference. The other performers are Sam Skelton on saxophone and James M. David on trombone.
David tried to tailor the pieces as best he could to their audience.
“You’re playing for a bunch of musicians, so I have to think about things that would be good for our curriculum educationally but also good for the conference,” David said.
David is excited for the students in the ensemble to perform outside of Berry; he is glad that the ensemble has the opportunity to get a different perspective and reach a new audience.
“I think our students have really worked hard and are ready,” David said. “We just got to go over there and do it; they’ve been prepping for this for a while.”
Senior trumpet player Jermaine White has played in the jazz ensemble all four of his years at Berry, and senior piano player Nicole Harris has played for three years. They are among the 18 students going to Athens for the GMEA conference. Both are pumped for this opportunity to show their skills.
“At GMEA, there’s going to be thousands of musicians and like-minded people, so it will be a great opportunity to showcase what we have been working on for the last six, seven months,” White said.
The ensemble has been rehearsing the pieces for this performance for around seven months, and a big part of the preparation involves each section working on their individual parts together, according to Harris.
“When you get your own part down, getting it to match with your section lets the whole group lock in together when you’re performing,” Harris said.
Both White and Harris are more excited than nervous to perform at the conference. They are ready to rise to the challenge.
“A cool aspect of the music we play is it caters really well to an audience that is not familiar with jazz,” Harris said. “But to know that we’re performing for an audience that knows what we’re doing and does it really well, it pushes us to become better musicians and to really lock down on the music and do it to the best of our ability.”
The 18 students in the ensemble, plus two more people to help move equipment, will be leaving Berry today to travel to Athens for their 4 p.m. performance.