Jazz and Wind Ensemble Travel the Bay Area

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.

Off goes my alarm. I roll around searching for the light, my eyes focusing on the glowing numbers staring me in the face – 5:45 a.m.

It’s still dark outside and there’s a morning chill that nips at my cheeks. My friend turns to me and says, “Haha, this is definitely the life of a performer!”

Each spring semester, The University of Tampa’s Music Department tours regional surrounding Florida schools performing, recruiting, and networking. This year, as the UT Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble boarded the bus, we all knew we were in for a long 2 days. Alongside the students traveled Dr. Jeff Traster, Dr. Grigorios Zamparas, Prof. Aric Brian, and Prof. Jim Burge.

Day 1: Bloomingdale High School, Valrico

We began with the Brass Quintet featuring students Estela Aragon, Joel Fenelon, Yasmari Gray, Joseph Collins, and Keith Martin. Following their outstanding performance, the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble wrapped up the show.

In the audience were high school students of all ages. Even between their class bells and 3rd period exhaustion, they gave a great response to our first gig.

Jon Sever, faculty at Bloomingdale, gave great feedback, “You guys are great. The only way high school kids are going to learn about colleges is the ‘hands-on’ approach. And in today’s world, you all coming to our school is the best way for recruitment.”

Night 1: Bartow High School, Bartow

With one good show under our belts, we were in for a surprise when we pulled up to Bartow Elementary. An auditorium full of kindergartners waiting to go home took over our scheduled practice time and we were forced to only a few minutes of rehearsal. The high school kids arrived and the show began at 7 p.m. Faculty, parents, and peers of Bartow HS were in attendance and UT’s music received a standing ovation. The crowd went crazy for UT’s Wind Ensemble after guest pianist and full-time faculty member, Dr. Grigorios Zamparas, performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

“Even on an out-of-tune piano, Grigorios brought the down the house. He truly is a blessing to our department and a wonderful asset to this tour,” praised Dr. Jeff Traster.

As a surprise to the audience, Bartow and the UT Wind Ensemble teamed up to perform Shenandoah. Beautifully conducted by director, Jon Eckman, it was a finale to remember.

Day 2: PCCA at Gibbs High School, St. Petersburg

Music Theory, Music Technique, and Music History classes sat in the audience. They were beaming with groove and delight after the Jazz Ensemble finished their rendition of Paul Jennings Spain. The Wind Ensemble followed with pieces by Ticheli and Jonathan Newman. A pause in the program occurred when Dr. Jeff Traster and Senior, Joel Fenelon, switched roles. Fenelon conducted “Florentiner March” and Traster sat in with his band on tuba.

After the show, we chatted with some of Gibbs’ prospective students. “Because we’re an art school, it’s great meeting other students only a few years older than us, doing what we plan to do when we graduate high school. I’m into percussion and after seeing you guys perform, it gives me more motivation to get better at my instrument and pursue it in college. University of Tampa’s Music Department is awesome, I’d definitely love to come sit in on some classes,” spoken by a PCCA class.

Night 2: Springstead High School, Spring Hill

Our final show was bittersweet. After 48 hours of bus rides, rehearsals, fast food, and performances we gave our all for the final bow of Tour 2008.

Back to UT:

Located in the Ferman Music Building, a recording of the tour will be available to all. Not only were the audience members affected, but the performers as well.

Allie Weinstein, flutist and Music Education major, responded, “Tour was exhausting! But it was a great way to show off the Music Dept. to regional high school students. My favorite part was being able to bond with band members that I don’t normally get to hang out with during class. I had so much fun.”

Tyler Montieth, Bassoon and Baritone Sax player, said, “Although it’s my first year with the Wind Ensemble, I was greatly impressed with the department. My favorite part was being to share a quality level of challenging and exciting music to surrounding counties. The purpose is to promote another department of UT on a professional and artistic level.”

Dr. Jeff Traster, Chair of the Department of Music, grinned from ear to ear. “Tour is demanding on the performers. We have back-to-back performances – that’s a lot of pressure! But that’s where the improvement happens; pressure brings awareness. We got better with every gig and I simply can’t wait until we add to our lineup (including Zamparas with Rhapsody in Blue). It’s going to be momentous!”

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