UCSB Jazz Ensemble proves jazz lives on

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Jasmine Liang

Arts & Entertainment Editor

On May 22, Dr. Jonathan Nathan, a music professor at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), directed an annual Jazz Ensemble performance featuring 35 UCSB students (including pre-concert music) called Strike Up the Band! The total community includes over 60 students and six different ensembles. The performance was a testament to Dr. Nathan’s nurturing hand, which has kept UCSB’s jazz community alive and well.

Although the event officially started at 7:30 p.m., pre-concert music started at 7 p.m., with Dr. Nathan on drums. The few musicians on stage glued early arrivals to their seats. Irene Chaey’s voice and Erik Beahrs tenor saxophone filled Lotte Lehmann Hall with a deep and melodic tune. 

The lights dimmed. Spotlights reflected off the backboards to envelop the stage in an ocean of gradient blues, matching the contrasting smooth and tumultuous rhythms of the music. The first ensemble opened the show with their titular song “Strike Up the Band.” Megan Etzel glided her fingers across the piano, while Liam Ronarch set the foundation with his subtle bass playing. When the trumpets, trombones, and saxophones ignited, they filled every nook and cranny of the room with life. No one could look away — the musicians had already stolen the audience’s ears and hearts.

Dr. Nathan took center stage as conductor. With a swipe of his steady hand, the saxophones erupted — and a clasp of his fist submerged the room in silence.

A few students’ performances stood out from the rest. Every second Amari Thomas played his tenor saxophone, his sleek and deep tone stood out from the cacophony of sounds fighting for attention. Krish Jain’s solo built the heart of West Side Story Suite: a rolling tide of drumming held the audience’s breath with every note. Dr. Nathan repeatedly noted Emily Conway’s expertise on the bass, with which she maneuvered through the music like it was second nature.

However, every musician had their moment to shine. Between songs, Dr. Nathan highlighted each student and their stories, praising them for their hard work, expertise, and unique personalities. He took extra care to note the graduating students, for whom this performance was likely their last at UCSB. With every name noted, their friends in the audience burst into applause and cheers.

“Everybody in this ensemble, everybody in this community of students really gives a lot of themselves to make this happen,” Dr. Nathan declared.

A highlight of the night was the presentation of the annual Loren Toder Memorial Scholarship Award, in honor of Loren Toder, a bass player who passed away in his sophomore year at UCSB. This year, it was awarded to Moremi Kaplan for her dedication to music. In his speech, Dr. Nathan said she’s “just really a wonderful human being, and that’s what it’s really about.” He mentioned it was extremely difficult for him to choose just one recipient for the award, but believed that no one in the band “would disagree with me when I said that Moremi is absolutely deserving of this award…”

If you were unable to attend the show, you can watch a recorded version on the Music department’s YouTube channel.

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