Jazz Ensemble playing a swell new tune this year

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This year’s jazz ensemble promises an unprecedented season of musical exploration, collaboration, performance, and, according to new director Drew Shanefield, a lot more improvisation. Listing such jazz influences as Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus and Duke Ellington in a recent pre-rehearsal interview, Shanefield certainly has the right inspiration. The director is also encouraging his students to branch out, “Everyone who plays is going to be playing in a big band— and small groups— quintets, sextets, lots of improv.”

According to music department chair Tom Whitman, some 24 students signed up this semester, triple last year’s number. Even as long-serving ensemble head John Alston takes a sabbatical this year (he will still be directing orchestra and chorus), Whitman and others still expect a lot of development. The chair writes that Shanefield is the best possible replacement; he was “exceptionally highly recommended, both in terms of his musical qualifications as well as his strong background in education.”

Shanefield studied trumpet in New York and has spent about nine years teaching music in Haverford public schools.

The band has already met Shanefield with strong approval. Caleb Ward ’07, a tenor sax in the group, writes in an e-mail “He definitely brings a new approach to the program, with some fresh ideas.” Most are simply thrilled about the addition of some thirteen new freshman players to the band. Ward remarks it is “perhaps a bigger change to the program… I’m personally excited about having so many new people interested in jazz.”

The ensemble’s first concert will be November 19 in the Lang Performing Arts Center. Shanefield expects all members will be present; possibly some others not yet even in the band. He reminds all Swarthmore community members that “If there are people still interested in playing— contact me, I’m sure we can work something out.”

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