Apr 23, 2019

New music option gives students something to sing about

Fresno State music majors can now cater their studies towards their love of jazz music. Two years ago, instrumental jazz performance was added to the list of options for music majors.

Previously, the music options available were limited. Music majors had to begin their college careers by having music as a liberal art for their option, and then students were able to expand their musical horizon the second year. Students were able to select from options including composition, vocal performance, music education and instrumental performance.

But for students who desire the kind of music that swings, bops, dazzles, and vibrates, there was no such option.

Music Professor Alan Durst is the co-founder of the new instrumental jazz performance concentration in the music department. Durst also teaches saxophone performance and jazz studies.

Durst and Chair of the Music Department Michael Caldwell teamed up two years ago and founded the concentration with the success of students in mind.

Durst said students who were interested in jazz didn’t have much help in the past and they had to study the music on their own.

“Now there is a degree engineered for students who want to pursue something other than just classical music,” Durst said.

But before you decide that you want to major in music and make instrumental jazz performance you’re concentration, there are many steps one must take in order to successfully complete such a degree.

“Students will study jazz in their lessons, but they will be tested on their ability to perform in that style,” Durst said. “They take two years of Big Band, two years of Jazz Combo, there is a Jazz Pedagogy class, various composition courses and more classes specified for a career in jazz performance.”

Fifth year music major Josh Andree said instrumental jazz performance is the perfect concentration for leading him in the direction of teaching or even arranging his own music and running his own private studio one day.

“I would like to teach part-time at a university after I get more school out of the way,” Andree said. “Hopefully, I can run a private studio and play professionally.”

Andree works with Durst on many occasions and said Durst is the reason for his success in his pursuit of a degree in the new instrumental jazz performance concentration.

“He really sculpted me into what I am now,” Andree said. “He forces us to cross boundaries that we wouldn’t do on our own to be a better musicians.”

Transfer student Thomas Lake studies trumpet with a concentration in instrumental jazz performance. Lake works with Caldwell and Durst, too.

“Dr. Durst is extremely accommodating,” Lake said. “I can’t imagine a program like this being really anything without him.”

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