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Fall concert shows the diversity of music students
Kesha Williams
November 14, 2012

Saxophonist There is nothing like live jazz to knock off the chill of a nippy night. Elizabeth City State University students accomplished that feat at their fall concert on Nov. 13.

The Music Department presented small ensembles, jazz combos and the Jazz Ensemble. Music students were featured in a variety of groups, ranging from a piano trio to the vibrant ECSU Brass Quintet performing a Spanish march, "El Gato Montes."

The Collegians Jazz Ensemble added to the program the blues favorite "Sweet Home Chicago,” and a student ensemble performing an Afro-Cuban-style bolero “Obsesion." Vocal selections included Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," a ballad made famous by Nat King Cole, "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," and George Shearing's “Lullaby Of Birdland.” Douglas Jackson, director of the jazz ensemble, predicted it would be a night of diverse music but familiar selections most would enjoy. Vocalists included ECSU students Chela Faulkner, Denicia Hamilton, and Lorticha Turnage.

“You saw the diversity of our music department at this concert. The audience heard chamber music written by George Frideric Handel, a Baroque-period composer, as well as an Afro-Cuban bolero written by Pedro Flores,” Jackson said. “Then there was the iconic blues selection, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ by the late Robert Johnson. When the audience departed, they could point out their favorites and hopefully discuss how the selections on the program differed.”

Douglas also slated an unusual performance for the night. It was a piece composed for symphony orchestra but transcribed for piano. This third movement from Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 featured three students seated at one piano-- all continuously playing the instrument. As they play, one was responsible for applying the pedal, one was responsible for turning the page, and the other was responsible for conducting -- setting the tempo and making sure the trio started and ended together. The students, Joshua Murrill, Kevin Gholston, and Catherine Bunch, are taking the Music Department’s piano accompanying class, which is being taught for the first time in several years at ECSU.

Dr. Roosevelt Newson, their instructor and chairperson of the ECSU Music Department, said listening for the purpose of accompanying others is a critical skill for pianists. With the Haydn movement, pianists must develop the ability to listen to each other while playing.

“If there is a section in this music that requires a certain change, each person must make that change, such as playing louder or softer. Each pianist must begin and end each phase together; they must sound like one instrumentalist. This skill makes for a well-rounded musician, one who can be successful in a variety of settings—playing with the symphony orchestra or playing for the church choir. It’s the well-rounded musician we want to produce in the Music Department.”

To the delight of Newson, one of the pianists is a non-traditional student who has played for church choirs for years but decided to advance her skills. Newson, a concert pianist, says there is always room for growth as a musician. He hopes other musicians will enroll at ECSU to take on new challenges. The university courses, he said, are not reserved for people solely aspiring to perform on the concert stage.

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