Students swing into Jazz Appreciation Month

A group of Truman State students hosted a Jazz Appreciation Month event on campus April 21 and invited the Kirksville High School jazz band to perform.

Juniors Meagan Banta-Lewis and Bobby Bryant, sophomores Jack Derbak and Rachel Hanna, and freshmen Mercy Mei Xin Tee and Sarah Tzi-Lyn Lew coordinated the event as part of a project for their public relations class. The hour-long event included performances by the Kirksville High School jazz band and University Swingers. Music professor Marc Rice also gave a brief presentation.

Communication professor David Price had students pick between a list of possible topics including Jazz Appreciation Month, Autism Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, Garden Month and Poetry Writing Month. Banta-Lewis and Bryant says out of the list of options the professor offered, they chose their preferences to plan a public relations campaign.

Bryant says everyone in the group of six either played an instrument at some point in their lives or are life-long jazz fans. Bryant says jazz is a genre most people already have some level of appreciation for, and the group thought this shared interest would be a good way to bring the community together.

Bryant says the group initially reached out to Truman ensembles to perform at the event, but most of them were busy, so they turned to the Kirksville High School.

“I think it actually turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise,” Bryant says.

Reaching out to the high school provided an opportunity to connect with the high school students, and it widened the audience for the event the Truman students were trying to promote, Bryant said.

Banta-Lewis says she is a huge fan of jazz music and thought it was an uplifting topic that would generate a huge turnout.

Banta-Lewis says it is important for Truman students to open their eyes to the community around them. Likewise, she says it is important for high school students to see college students show an interest in what they are doing.

Banta-Lewis says she was excited for the high school band to perform. Being in a jazz band in high school takes extra commitment, and it demonstrates those students are really passionate about jazz, she says. Banta-Lewis says her passion for jazz was important for the event and the attitude her group was trying to display.

Banta-Lewis says she hoped people who attended the event left with a greater knowledge and appreciation of jazz than before.

Rice spoke at the event about why jazz matters in a historical and cultural sense, especially in regions like Kansas City and St. Louis. Rice says he was excited to talk to the public about a genre of music that doesn’t get discussed much.

Jazz is a kind of music that helped bridge two cultures, Rice says. He says this type of music was very appropriately used at this jazz appreciation event to bridge the high school and Truman communities as well. Students from the high school came on campus, mixed with a campus group, and played for a campus organization, which was very beneficial for them, Rice says. In turn, the college students got to see how proficient the high school band was, he says.

Rice says jazz also has great educational value. When the students play this music, they are listening to each other, collaborating with each other, and communicating and responding to each other, Rice says.

Rice says he hopes the Kirksville community will continue to support the ensemble and the music.

“[The students] are learning,” Rice says. “And they are enjoying what they are learning.”

Jon Self, Kirksville High School senior, says he has played in the jazz band all four years of high school and began playing jazz guitar as his primary instrument sophomore year. Self says the band was eager to play at the event.

Self says this is not the band’s first time performing for Truman students, but he said it was still a big deal to them, and the musicians took it very seriously.

“A performance is a performance is a performance,” Self says. “We were psyched to play. We always are.”

Self says it is really nice to play for the community and show off what the band has been working so hard on.

“You can … communicate your own thoughts and feelings through your instrument, and so when that’s received by other people it’s a really fun thing,” Self says. “[It’s us saying,] ‘We enjoy this, here’s hoping you enjoy it too.’”