By Per Peterson
The Tracy Area High School gymnasium has been home to basketball games, wrestling and volleyball matches, choir and band concerts, commencement exercises and even golf practices. On Wednesday afternoon, it was transformed into a mini-jazz parlor.
The University of Minnesota-Morris Jazz Ensembles group filled the gym with swing and slower versions of jazz to the delight of the TAHS student body, as well as staff and faculty. TAHS Band Director Brittani Klaverkamp played trombone in the band.
TAHS was the group’s first stop of a three-day tour that took the group to Willmar’s Kennedy Theatre, Sauk Rapids, Albany, St. John’s Prep outside of St. Cloud, Becker and Princeton.
“We’re getting out there,” said the group’s director and UMM Director of Jazz Studies Jonathan Campbell.
Campbell said the group does not charge for its appearances, although it does accept monetary donations. The real payment for his musicians, he said, is the experience.
“They get to get out and get some real-life playing experiences, see what it’s like to play nine shows in three days. It’s good exposure for the college, too. And we like doing it. This is the highlight of our year.”
The band consists of a couple dozen players, from alto saxes, to trumpets, to percussion and electric guitar, but only a handful of them are music majors. Campbell , who has been at UMM for two years, said for some reason, the jazz genré attracts musicians no matter their background or college aspirations.
“I don’t know why, but for our choirs and other groups, the number (of music majors) is about 50%, but for the jazz it’s different, and from what I understand it’s been like that for a while. Morris has always had a really good jazz culture.”
The ensemble’s playlist Wednesday included number of improvisational solos, which jazz lends itself to.
“We have sections where we can put in 10 soloists; we can put in two, one,” he said. “I think with jazz, the improv thing — that’s why it’s jazz. I told everybody by the end of the trip everybody has to solo at least once. It’s kind of what we do in jazz. It’s fun.”