Illustration: Sean Rogers/The Olaf Messenger
Music is one of the things we’re known for at St. Olaf, and the jazz bands are no exception. They have been known to tear it up in the Pause every year and always seem to be having a good time. This year, the Jazz Bands are under new leadership and are starting to perform on- and off-campus. There are some exciting changes, including public performances and two new Jazz Combos.
St. Olaf Jazz I is the more active of the groups, with more scheduled performances and gigs. “We just got back from playing at Crooners Supper Club, and Jazz I just did the swing dance performance for the school,” said Director Joseph L. Jefferson.
Jefferson is in the midst of his first-year here as the jazz director. This jazz group has historically had the opportunity to perform gigs in Minneapolis, and this year is no different. Crooners has invited them back for another performance in the spring. Jazz I and Jazz II have their first performance on Nov. 17 in the Pause.
The groups have two official performances at St. Olaf during the year. The second performance is in the spring. “For our spring performance we are going to have a special guest artist,” Jefferson said. Jefferson is unable to disclose the name at this time.
One new thing about jazz at St. Olaf is the introduction of two “combo” groups. The combos are composed of three horns and a rhythm section. “Rehearsals are more on us,” said Will Kroner ’27, who is a part of one of the combos. “We’ll rehearse every weekend and every few weeks, we’ll have a coaching session with Dr. Jefferson.”
The combos are more focused on improvisation, and because each group is so small they are better able to hold each other accountable for their parts. “It pushes students to be accountable for their parts and be willing to adjust themselves, and be flexible to their bandmates,” Jefferson said.
The intimacy in the size of the combos helps the members focus on improvisation. Kroner’s combo has their first gig on Nov. 19 at 4 p.m. at The Metronome.
“I am a builder,” Jefferson said when asked about the future of the Jazz program.
Jefferson also said he feels very welcomed by the students. “I feel fortunate and blessed to work with them,” Jefferson said. He talked about bringing a different level of seriousness to the jazz program at St. Olaf. “What you accept becomes acceptable,” Jefferson said. “My goal is for them to be the best that they can be in this space.”
Another new approach that Jefferson brings to St. Olaf Jazz is an increase in social media use. They have a group Facebook page, but Jefferson also talked about using his personal platform to promote the groups, as well as encouraging his students to do the same.
The jazz bands next concert is on Nov. 17 in the Pause at 7:30 p.m. Follow the St. Olaf Jazz Facebook page at facebook.com/stolafjazz for updates on future concerts.