GVSU Jazz Orchestra prepares “swingin’” tunes for their upcoming concert

GVL / Archive
GVSU Jazz Orchestra

GVL / Archive GVSU Jazz Orchestra

Mary Dupuis, Staff Reporter

The GVSU Jazz Orchestra and smaller jazz combos are having their third of four concerts this year on Thursday Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre of the Haas Center for Performing Arts. 

The concert is free and open to GVSU students and the public. The evening will be featuring two smaller jazz groups, the 17 member GVSU Jazz Orchestra, and for the first time ever, a jazz vocalist for the orchestra to accompany. 

The night will be broken into two parts. To begin, the two combo groups made up of jazz soloists will play for about 15 minutes. Following this, the orchestra will perform for 45 minutes with its vocalist, Tréondis Snodgrass, being featured in three of the sets.

Tim Froncek, Director of the orchestra, has been at GVSU for 14 years and is particularly excited about this winter’s newest addition of a vocalist to the concert. 

“I love the concerts we put on here at the university because we get many new listeners at each event. Many students will come up to me after and express their joy at hearing and seeing jazz live,” Froncek said. “I think it makes a big difference with the live performance. I’m looking forward to this concert as we are featuring a jazz vocalist which we have not done in the past.”

But, Froncek is not the only one with such excitement. Andrew Witter, the orchestra’s drummer, said that out of his two years being a part of the GVSU Jazz Orchestra he thinks this will be their best concert yet. 

“We’ve worked really hard on this concert. Our lead players — meaning drums, alto one, trombone one, and trumpet one — are really talented and a lot of them actually play in professional groups outside of Grand Valley,” Wittmer said. “It’s really cool to be able to play with them in this group, in this setting as well. The music we have is really swingin’ and a few tunes are really difficult and I think we really showed up well on them so I’m really excited for them.”

Following each concert this year, the GVSU Jazz Orchestra is given one day off from class, and the next session were given new music to learn for their upcoming performance. Preparations for this concert, in particular, began following their concert this past December. 

Froncek said that he hopes to see many people from the general public in the audience coming to support the orchestra and GVSU as well as students coming to support their peers. 

Wittmer is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in the crowd, but also extends an invitation to anyone looking to discover more of the world of jazz. 

“Usually and ideally it’s friends and family, people that support the individuals that are in the group show up. Anyone who’s interested I hope would come as well,” Wittmer said. “But also people that I think would really benefit from it are people who have no idea what jazz really is. It’s great exposure to the art form.”

With months of effort being put into practices for the concert, Wittmer said he hopes people not just to hear the music, but to experience the life and atmosphere of a live event.

“I think the big thing that people don’t always realize is what music really is. Remember that recordings have only been around for less than 100 years. So music has always been shared in the physical sense,” Wittmer said. “It’s one thing to hear it on a recording but to experience it live, especially jazz music, and not just jazz but especially big band music, live, is a different experience that you can never get off of a CD or even vinyl.”

Most importantly, Wittmer hopes the concert will draw in a crowd willing to spread the art form through and outside of the auditorium it is performed in. 

“Something that is really good for just the art itself is people enjoying it and hopefully passing on the legacy that is jazz. But for that, we need people to listen and have an interest to be there. So that’s why I hope people come to this event,” Wittmer said.