SSU Jazz Orchestra travels the world in upcoming concert

Join students, teachers and alumni on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Weill Hall for the Sonoma State University Jazz Orchestra concert “World Premiere Jazz.” It will be a show filled with passionate music that will want you to get up out of your seat and dance through the night.

Director of Jazz Studies Doug Leibinger has crafted an arrangement that includes four pieces of work from Cuban pianist and composer Miguel de Armas, two original pieces from past Sonoma State alumni Alison Poterack from her “We The People” project and some of one of Leibinger’s own original compositions.

This concert will focus on an in-depth study of Caribbean folklore music and how it is related to jazz. Leibinger’s intentions are to bring this Caribbean sound to the Jazz Department at Sonoma State. By integrating diverse music into the Music Department, it allows for students to broaden their musical abilities. 

Sonoma State University Jazz Orchestra rehearsing Fall semester for “Rock, Strings & Horns - A Concert For Violet.” STAR // Alison Snider

Sonoma State University Jazz Orchestra rehearsing Fall semester for “Rock, Strings & Horns - A Concert For Violet.” STAR // Alison Snider

Every semester jazz performers are required to put on two concerts to showcase the amount of repertoire they have been practicing, as well as the skills they’re improving. Each show has a different theme to it and offers students an opportunity to perform jazz in a big band setting and, for those who are able to, perform as a soloist.

Junior Music Education major Thomas Gosnell is getting a first hand look at performing one of Leibinger’s own charts “Tango Asunción.”

“The solo section is long and contains interesting harmonic complexity, leaving plenty room for development,” said Gosnell

Leibinger explains that one of the things about Jazz Orchestra is that it presents the ability to integrate instruments that normally wouldn’t be associated with big band, such as the soprano saxophone.

The orchestra works together overall creating a seamless melodic tune, leaving the audience feeling eccentric and wanting more. Professor Leibinger perfects the sound of each section ensuring the end result sounds on beat, sharp and smooth. Some of their pieces give off an almost otherworldly quality—almost as if time seems to stand still. 

“Jazz encompasses many different sub-genres (swing, Latin, funk),” Gosnell said. “Through this outlet we learn flexibility, and develop our ears more than in any other ensemble setting.”

The smooth bass heard in the background of tunes creates a longing for more. Senior bass player Austin West attributes the rhythm section and described how it plays a particularly important part in the sound of this music.

“The piano, guitars, bass and drums all work together to create a combination of rhythm and harmony to support the rest of the band,”  said West. “The drums and bass specifically keep the time moving and grooving.”

Community members from surrounding areas are welcome to join the orchestra at Sonoma State. However, this is the third semester ever that the Jazz Orchestra is performed by all Sonoma State students. Leibinger feels especially proud of this group and believes it is the best orchestra yet to come.

“If you want to play music you have to be really good at it to perform at a professional level, and I strive to encourage that in all my students,” Leibinger said.

Leibinger’s dedication to teaching students does not end with just music. He makes it a point to try to instill in them that they are great performers but also exposes to them the economical side of things by allowing them to see how it can be difficult to survive off just being a performer. This motivates students to expand and try new styles of music and be versatile as can be.

Leibinger talked about how not only are you learning, perfecting your skill and learning your craft, but performers are also developing relationships with those closest to them. Once these relationships are built they are likely to last through time and present new opportunities for them to get gigs and jobs. He is hopeful that even some day when alumni comes back they are able to connect with a current student and be able to create more pieces that work.