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Fresno State Jazz Director Alan Durst (Courtesy of Fresno State)

Jazz Composer’s Orchestra brings staff and students together

More than 100 people attended the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra on Monday night in the Wahlberg Recital Hall at Fresno State.

The Fresno State and Fresno City College departments have hosted the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra for more than ten years. The Fresno State Jazz Orchestra and the Fresno City College Jazz Composers Orchestra played during the 90-minute event. The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra is made up of 19 experienced musicians. Most are college or high school level educators in the central valley and are Fresno State Alumni.

The event opened with the Fresno State Jazz Band playing “So What” by Miles Davis. The Jazz band also played “Warm Valley” by Duke Ellington and “Queen City Shuffle” by Matt Catingub. The performance featured trumpet, saxophone and trombone solos.

Fresno State Jazz Director Alan Durst said the concert allows students and teachers to watch each other perform.

“A lot of the students have been taught by these performers,” Durst said. “It’s a neat event to have their former teachers performing for them.”

Durst said the students started practicing for the concert at the beginning of the fall semester. The concert is the first event of the school year hosted by the Fresno State Music Department.

He said students enjoy reconnecting with their former students.

“I enjoy [seeing] the student’s reaction as they see their teachers that they study with all throughout high school and middle school and elementary school,” Durst said. “And the teachers get excited too.”

Fresno State student and saxophone player Braden O’Shaughnessy said he enjoyed seeing his hard work pay off during the performance.

“I like seeing my hard work come to fruition and I like feeling the energy from the crowd,” O’Shaughnessy said.

After the Fresno State Jazz Band’s performance, the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra opened it’s set with “Back Bone” by Thad Jones. The performance featured two world premieres of new compositions written by members of the Jazz Composers Orchestra.

The first new composition, titled “Rouge Awakening,” was written by pianist David Aus and featured trombone and saxophone solos. The second new composition was written by trumpeter Joe Lewis and was titled “Quiet Solitude.”

The performance also featured two Steely Dan renditions. “Steely Dan has all the rock and roll stuff I like, but it also has all the twists and turns and surprises that I like. It’s brilliant.” Jazz Composers Orchestra composer Mike Dana said.

Dana said the concert reunites jazz musicians who graduated from Fresno State.

“A lot of the musicians in the group also went through this program, so it’s kind of like a family reunion,” she said.

Dana said the teachers like seeing how their former students have grown.

“It’s great for us to look out and see our students watching,” Dana said. “It’s kind of like everything is coming full circle.”