The Hillsdale jazz ensemble per­formed for the first time in Plaster Audi­torium. Courtesy | Matt Fisher

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.”

McCourry agreed. 

“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.