Jazz Orchestra starts off the year with a slew of performances


The Boise State Jazz Orchestra has already had a full semester of performances so far, and they do not seem to be stopping any time soon. The orchestra played to a large crowd at the Outdoor Jazz Concert on Sept. 21, and are now gearing up for their next concert on Oct. 27. 

While most of the 25 members are also a part of Boise State’s Blue Thunder Marching Band, nearly one-third of the musicians are new this year, some of whom are not even studying within the Department of Music. 

“Anyone is allowed to audition,” said Dr. Derek Ganong, the orchestra’s director. 

The ensemble practices two days a week for two hours each day, which is important for the musicians and director. During the four hours of practice each week, the orchestra is able to experiment with many genres and styles with hopes to excel at each one. 

“[The orchestra] provides them with something they wouldn’t otherwise be getting,” Ganong said. 

With the ability to experiment with so many different types of music, they are able to make each concert different than the last. The first concert put on this year by the orchestra was a performance of swing music. In the following months, crowds can expect Latin and tango-themed pieces, as well. 

“The Jazz Orchestra is broadening the scope of their music education,” Ganong said.

Along with the director of the ensemble, two students/musicians discussed what it is like being in the orchestra and the joy that comes with playing in the group.

Kevin Littrell, fourth year music general major, talked about his enjoyment being the guitar player in the ensemble for the past four years. The ensemble is one of the only ensembles that is available for guitar, so it turned out to be a perfect fit for Littrell. 

“I like the nature of improv that you can’t find in classical ensembles,” Littrell said. There’s “a lot of opportunities to improvise what you’re playing.”

Littrell continued to compare the attitudes of the musicians to the attitude of jazz itself. Being a rock and blues guitarist, Litrell is quite familiar with the idea that attitudes of musicians play a part in the music that is being played.

“We take it seriously, but we still like to have fun.” “Jazz music is never supposed to take itself too seriously,” Littrell said.

Shayla Lewis, fifth-year music education major, has been playing bass in the orchestra for the past five years. Lewis keeps herself busy with the music community on campus. When she is not playing with the orchestra, Lewis is taking part in the Boise State Symphony. Lewis enjoys her time playing with both groups and is always excited for whatever they have in store for her. 

“I get the most out of it than any other ensemble,” Lewis said, “Jazz isn’t just a fad and anyone who comes to the concerts can hear current music, the music is something you’ll want to listen to again.”

Both Littrell and Lewis are preparing with Dr. Ganong and the rest of the orchestra for the upcoming Halloween Spooktacular concert on Oct. 27. This Latin and tango themed concert will be located in the Student Union Building (SUB) and the Boise State Jazz Orchestra will be accompanied by the Boise State Symphony. 

“You can expect a pretty amazing collaboration between the orchestra and the jazz band,” Lewis said. 


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