School of Music’s Jazz Festival features young musicians and industry legends

Associate Professor Jamie Ousley (left) and Ignacio Berroa (right) meeting Jan. 19, prior to the Jazz Concert | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Kaysea Suzana | Assistant Entertainment Director 

With the Herbert & Nicole Wertheim School of Music going all out this semester, the Jan. 20 Jazz concert at 7:30 in the Wertheim Concert Hall is the cherry on top of a sensational jazz festival. 

Gracing the drumset is legendary guest musician Ignacio Berroa, bringing his go-to Afro-Cuban style into the jazz scene. 

Alongside playing music, Berroa is also there to facilitate educational workshops to coach high school students that visit with an interest in joining the FIU School of Music. 

The event also spotlights the FIU Jazz Faculty Quartet, starring the leader and bassist Jamie Ousley.

Accompanying Ousley is composer and pianist Micahel Eckroth, trombonist Ruben Caban, and saxophonist Gary Campbell.

An interesting twist to the performance is that none of the musicians know what pieces they’re going to play.

“We’re going to actually have a quintet with Ignacio playing drums. We might play at different times…The arrangements will be created on the spot. We might play ‘standards’, some by The Great American Songbook, some from Broadway Musical, and perhaps some others…” Ousley said in an interview with PantherNOW.

By ‘standards’, Ousley refers to popular music compositions (specifically of Jazz) that are often used for teaching, basics, or performance. 

Furthermore, playing is FIU’s Jazz Big Band, a performance style referring to a large group of musicians (in this case students) that traditionally play jazz or dance music. 

Michael Mackley, junior jazz performance major and trumpet player, talked about some of the challenges relating to big band.

“Big bands are challenging for different reasons. Everyone is carrying their own weight and if one person doesn’t, it’s more obvious.”

Additionally, Mackley mentioned the experiential purpose of playing in the big band.

“We have some prepared tunes and we’ll be receiving comments from Ignacio. As a Masterclass, he’s going to show us what we can work on,” said Mackley.

Berroa giving feedback of a prior performance to students and staff | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Fellow trumpet player and senior jazz performance major Justin Dickson, referred to the styles of the big band’s show.

“We’re going to have two pieces. Malagueña by Stan Kenton, and Sail Away by Tom Harell. Malagueña is a faster, more intense tempo while Sail Away is calmer and falls under bossa nova,” Dickson said.

Bossa nova, from Brazil, is an amalgamation of samba and jazz music.

But not all big band players are music students.

Caleb Denis, a senior biology major and drum set player, talked about his experience in playing with music.

“Throughout high school I was always a big part of the choir. Though my career of choice is in the medical field. My minor in music helps keep a connection to music and allows me to enjoy it while at FIU. It keeps music as a part of my life,” said Denis.

Though Jazz is considered high-tempo, Ousley mentioned the thrill of it as a genre, and its international implications.

“[Jazz] is an American creation made from divergent origins: European, African, South-American, etc. You never know how it’s going to go with Jazz. That’s what makes it exciting. With Igancio, I imagine it’ll be a lot more pumping,” Ousley said.

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