To most, the words “jazz ensemble” stir ideas of a time and place now surrendered to the history books and provoke thoughts of an era long past when musicians like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong ruled the airwaves.
For Auburn, this sentiment could not be further from the truth. Jazz is alive and well in Auburn University’s Jazz Ensemble.
On Friday, Jan. 18, the jazz band, directed by Michael Pendowski, will perform at the Alabama Music Educators Conference in Birmingham.
The jazz ensemble has performed at AMEA once before and is excited to be able to once again showcase its skill.
“We did it four years ago and to standing-room only, so they put us in a double venue this time because they’re anticipating everyone coming to see us, so we’re hoping it’s going to be really good,” Pendowski said.
After an intense, selective application process of submitting performance tapes, the jazz ensemble members are looking forward to an opportunity to showcase the talent, dedication and determination they have shown as they worked toward their goals.
“You can’t do it every year,” Pendowski said. “This is the first year that we could apply again. It’s a great honor to do this.”
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Pendowski credits the band’s prowess to its building process and experience. Each year, everyone must audition again for a spot on the ensemble, which builds a coalition of talented students from all corners of campus.
“We, this year, probably have the best band the University might have had,” Pendowski said. “These last few years have been a crest riding up.”
The ensemble plays not only vintage music but modern pieces, as well. In addition to classic pieces, the ensemble will be performing two of Pendowski’s own arrangements: “Sister Sadie” and “The Suite.”
“I think they really enjoy playing music that, even when they got into school, they didn’t realize that they could play something this hard because everything we do is at the highest level,” Pendowski said.
The ensemble enjoys the challenge of such a complex and diverse material, which allows them to sharpen their skills in preparation for what the members choose to pursue next.
“There are no giveaways in this band,” Pendowski said. “I think that makes them play better. I think they rise to the occasion.”
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