Student jazz arrangers’ work comes to fruition

Alex Schaaf

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Band premiered eight pieces arranged by Lawrence students in a concert Thursday, April 5.
The Student Jazz Writers Concert was intended to feature all current Lawrence student jazz composers and arrangers. As a result, music from different genres was arranged for the two jazz ensembles.
Fred Sturm, the director of jazz and improvisational music, said that the process of getting the students’ work completed and performed was not a relaxing one.
“It’s a whirlwind, but it’s an incredible high for these fine young writers and performers,” he said.
The pieces were roughly five to six minutes in duration, but the amount of time spent preparing them far exceeded that number.
Between weekly class meetings and private lessons with Sturm, the students spent months working on the scores.
“The students dedicated significant hours to the generation of a full score, creating all of the individual parts for a 17-piece ensemble, and conducting their music in the rehearsals,” Sturm said.
LUJE and Jazz Band learned the entire program in only five rehearsals, a notable accomplishment. Altogether, the music was performed fewer than 10 days after the writers completed their scores and parts.
The program featured a diverse list of arrangements, mixing contemporary arrangements with jazz standards. Derek Dreier brought some Willie Nelson into the arena, arranging “Crazy” for LUJE. Greg Woodard arranged “Hide and Seek,” a song by Imogen Heap, a modern singer-songwriter from England.
“We all worked very hard on this project and it is something that all of us are very proud of,” said Adam Meckler, who arranged “The Days of Wine and Roses,” the song from the 1962 film of the same name, which won composer Henry Mancini an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Sturm pointed out that the students sometimes reap great rewards from these kinds of efforts.
Doug Detrick, a 2006 Lawrence graduate, received the “Best Jazz Arrangement” award in the 2007 Down Beat Magazine Student Music Awards for a Duke Ellington arrangement, “Single Petal of a Rose.”
The piece was recorded at Lawrence last spring by a “studio orchestra,” a combination of LUJE and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra.
“I hope that some of our writers being showcased this year will garner the same kind of attention that Doug has,” said Sturm.
As for the joy of hearing the music performed live after hours of work, Adam Meckler added, “It was so much more fun to listen to than Finale’s MIDI sounds.