Despite the rigors of the first three weeks of the academic year, I find myself feeling surprisingly up beat. In many ways, the hardest part (auditions, assembling student ensembles, establishing rehearsal times, outlining expectations, first rehearsals, etc.) is now behind me. Although the majority of this work was accomplished in the first week, it literally took the entire three-week period for me to find my bearings, and establish the schedule that will be my routine for the next three and a half months.
This coming Monday will be a new beginning of sorts. Now that everything is more or less in place, I can return to practicing the piano and composing / arranging at regular, scheduled times. I have big plans in both areas.
Here are some of the things about which I am most excited for this new academic year:
• The UConn Jazz Ensemble is already beginning to sound like a cohesive unit! I have a terrific roster of students, including the very welcome addition of a strong freshman drummer. I love the charts we are playing, all of which are written by John Mills from the University of Texas at Austin. We have our first concert at the end of the month, and our first off-campus gig on Oct. 8th, playing at a function for 1,000 municipal and business officials.
• We have five solid jazz combos in place this semester: The UConn Jazz Sextet, the Hard Bop Quintet, the Gerry Mulligan “Pianoless” Quartet, a Latin Combo, and by special request of the students, a Dixieland Group!
• the first annual “Earl MacDonald presents” concert, featuring student bassist, Alex Eckhardt is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 5th in von der Mehden recital hall at 8 p.m.
• My jazz arranging class is the largest it has ever been in my 10 years at the university, with seven of my top jazz students enrolled. It is thrilling to see that they are all keenly interested, fully engaged, and posing intelligent questions which have lead to lively class discussions. Every one of them is overtly passionate about jazz, so I anticipate that their work will be first rate. This will be a fun class!
• I have a new administrative role as Associate Department Head and have been enjoying the added responsibilities and challenges.
• My faculty colleagues voted me onto the search committee to select our new Department Head. I am happy to play a role in shaping the future of our music department.
• The upcoming CD release of my jazz orchestra recording project.
I am optimistically regarding this year as a being pivotal. Change, progress and breakthrough seem imminent on numerous fronts.