PITTSBURG — Jazz can be smooth, soulful, edgy, raspy and there’s a diverse set of styles when people think of Jazz.
Most of all “there's a feeling of the music, there’s a happiness to it and everything that just stirs people, it gets them excited,” Pittsburg State University Professor of Music Robert Kehle said.
Kehle is also the director of the PSU Jazz Festival which was held on Friday. Over 70 middle school and high school bands performed 30-minute concerts at both the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts and Memorial Auditorium. In addition, the College of Technology Open House was also on Friday. Students explored career opportunities during the open house, adding 600 more student guests to campus that day.
The student band performances were judged and then the judges worked with the students to help improve areas they needed to work on. The performances and the judges’ comments were also recorded to be listened to at a later date.
“There are a lot of educational components to it,” Kehle said. “I think the public schools see it as another musical vehicle for students to learn, to enlighten them culturally.
“When you look at jazz, it comes out of the African-American culture so you’re also talking about a culture aspect.”
Congress has even designated it an American musical artform, Kehle said.
PSU students also benefit from the festival. The festival culminated in a public performance and the PSU Jazz Ensemble opened for the Tom Kubis Big Band, from Los Angeles.
“Basically, unless you have never gone to a movie or have never watched TV you’ve heard everybody in the band,” Kehle said adding that as for high school and middle school students, “I want those high school kids to hear, live, this quality of group because what an impact for them to actually to sit there and listen to guys and gals that are out there recording and are at the top of their field and be this close and hear them, and go up afterwards and say hi.”
On Wednesday following rehearsal, PSU students Daulton Edwards and Garrett Manasco said they were looking forward to playing with the band. The ensemble also had the opportunity to brush elbows with the musicians during dinner that week.
Edwards, who plays percussion and is a senior studying communication and broadcasting, said he enjoys visiting with all of the students who visit campus.
“It’s nice to talk to students and address what they are doing in the future and if they are even thinking about college,” he said. “It’s interesting hearing what kids want to do and what their interests in going to college are.”
Manasco, sophomore studying music education, went to the festival all throughout middle school and high school as a trombone player. After meeting Kehle and visiting campus each year he decided to go to PSU and he wants to be a music instructor one day.