The Hillsdale College music department opened the first concert in the new Plaster Auditorium with their beloved jazz ensemble — the Hillsdale College Big Band and Little Big Band — in their Friday concert. The event offered attendees the opportunity to usher in a new era of performance at Hillsdale.
The night began with the Little Big Band, led by Jonathon Gerwitz, an adjunct music instructor, performing a series of songs. In particular, the band’s rendition of “Tenor Madness” stood out as an upbeat and peppy tune with Jarret Ochsendorf’s performance on the drums stealing the show. “My Funny Valentine” also resonated with the audience, in a large part due to the artists’ exceptional use of the piano and horns throughout the piece.
After the half-hour performance by the Little Big Band, director of jazz ensembles Chris McCourry introduced the Big Band, consisting of primarily upperclassmen. Performing with the Big Band, McCourry opened the evening by praising the Plaster Auditorium.
“We’ve been waiting three years for this new venue. And it was worth the wait,” he declared.
The Big Band burst into their first song “Big Swing Face” with the full force of trumpets, horns, and trombones. After the energetic opening, McCourry steered the audience into “Corner Pocket,” highlighted by Carson Waites’ performance on the piano. Albeit a slower song, the performance provided the audience with arguably smoothest melody of the evening.
Immediately following this performance, Mike Williams took the stage. Williams, famous for his tenure as the lead trumpeter on the Count Basie Orchestra, accompanied the Big Band and McCourry on a series of songs.
“We’ve had a couple of concerts with him,” Big Band Member Kyle Randolph, senior, said. “He’s a great guy. Tons of experience and stories. It went well.”
Senior Jacob Rummel, saxophone player for the Big Band, said he thought they played with “a lot of energy.”
“It was easy to play with that energy because Mike Williams is an energetic player,” Rummel said. “He’s got a lot of experience playing trumpet and brings a whole new dimensions to younger players.”
“Mike Williams is one of the most phenomenal high note specialist I have ever encountered. He plays with pure fire. He is a one of a kind,” McCourry said.
Later in the concert, McCourry introduced sophomore Molly Buccola to sing a trio of tunes, “Orange Colored Sky,” “Feeling Good,” and “Mean to Me.” On all three Buccola demonstrated her vocal ability and drew strong applause from the audience.
The Little Big Band and Big Band rang in a new era of music at Hillsdale with an excellent evening of music at the Plaster Auditorium. The new venue will host the sounds of jazz again on Nov. 15, when the Hillsdale College Hillcats perform.