J-CLU gets students excited about Jazz Composition

Cameron Carrus

Musicians playing at one of the weekly Monday night Jazz Jams. (Dan Nguyen)

Some say that jazz is a “museum music,” a genre that has been isolated to a certain time period and studied by academia, preserving the great music of the past. But there is hope, even in the academic world, of jazz music moving forward. Jazz Composers of Lawrence University (J-Clu), a new club on campus, hopes to inspire students to write new jazz music.

The group was formed by co-presidents Chris Misch and Patrick Marschke. Marschke, a class of ’13 percussion major, said that he is very excited to be sharing his passion for jazz composition with fellow students.

Misch and Marschke got the idea for J-Clu from their Jazz Composition coursework with Fred Sturm, the Jazz Director at Lawrence. They wanted to bring the positive energy and supportive environment from that class to a wider range of students. Sturm has a unique teaching style that ignites a creative fire in his students. Of Sturm, Marschke commented that “he makes you want to write.”

J-Clu will only meet for an hour once a week, and is open to anyone, major or non-major, who expresses an interest in jazz writing and a willingness to show what they have written to the group. The only required work for the club is bringing some music, if only a scrap, to share. The idea is to do a possibly minimal amount of work and get the maximum benefit of constructive feedback and a plethora of new ideas.

Hoping to take full advantage of the tight-knit student community and the talent that the extensive jazz faculty has to offer, J-Clu will split their time between student-led sessions and faculty master class workshop sessions. The jazz faculty on hand are bassist Mark Urness, saxophonist Jose Encarnacion, pianist Bill Carrothers, guitarist Steve Peplin and lecturer in music Patty Darling. The group also hopes to snag guest artists coming to campus, such as the Maria Schneider Big Band, to talk about composition as well. “Guest artists hold master classes, but they usually only talk about performing,” said Marschke. He hopes that by bringing them into J-Clu, they can more directly address the artists about “specific dilemmas that come up in jazz writing.”

Marschke and Misch have some really great ideas concerning the future of J-Clu, including a “studio band” of Lawrence students that would get paid to record students’ pieces, in collaboration with Larry Darling and Sol Studios. They are also considering hiring guest artists passing through to record songs. Lastly, they are hoping to either produce a CD or showcase students’ works in a recital.

Though the organization sounds like it has a rigid structure, the creators realize that it is a brand new organization and are open to any ideas that any members may have. “We want everyone to get what they want out of the group,” said Marschke. If you want to get your inner swing out on the page, contact Patrick Marschke or Chris Misch via email.