Spotlight: Jazz Jam

From left to right: sophomore Tim Moyer, juniors Nolan Ehlers and Zoe Markle.

Photo by Julia Balestri.

On Monday, May 7, juniors Zoe Markle and Nolan Ehlers, along with sophomore Tim Moyer opened up the jazz jam in the Mead Witter room of the Warch Campus Center at 9:30 p.m. Markle, a bassist, runs the weekly jam and sets them up most Monday nights. The three of them, with Ehlers on drums and Moyer on alto saxophone, played several tunes until Moyer left for the night. Then junior Jack Murphy joined Ehlers and Markle on piano. Murphy confessed that he hadn’t been to the jam for quite a while, but playing there with other people felt good and allowed him to just feel the music.

These jams happen every Monday night during each ten-week term in the Mead Witter room and performers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate. As the term progresses, things tend to quiet down. Although the last jazz jam was during seventh week, it didn’t stop the players from giving a great performance. Despite the small number of participants this week, all performers sounded stellar and easily pleased the smaller audience that attended for the night. Though the turn-out has not been very high the past few weeks, at least a few musicians make it in and always play very well. It is not just a performance opportunity for them, but also a way to connect with one another and blow off steam. 

All kinds of instruments are welcome to play at jazz jams. There can be anything from the basic drum set, bass and piano, to viola, trombone and even vocalists every once in a while. Regardless of the variety of instruments that show up, they always find a way to make the tune work. Rarely do they have the exact “right” instruments for a certain song, but watching how these performers can adjust themselves to make the tune work anyway is really spectacular. There is  a great deal of collaboration required in the song choosing process. Not everyone knows the same songs, so finding one that will work and sound good is a another level of expertise for the players to keep in mind and work through. While it may seem like the average standard to the people playing, it is very impressive to watch this group as a person who does not have any experience with musical collaboration.

Apart from just playing the standards, most of the performers are also improvising on solos. To do that and keep everything else in mind is no simple task. Everyone there has practiced countless hours on their instrument, as conservatory kids usually do, and it shows. They choose to come and play at the jams simply because they enjoy it. The jazz jam isn’t an ensemble that they are required to show up to. Everyone is there because they love to play and it’s visible in their performance. It lights up the room and all of Warch, and it is a joy to watch.

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