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The Annual Jazz Fest

Leon Anderson recipient of the Music Alum of the Year award

Leon Anderson recipient of the Music Alum of the Year award

The annual Jazz Fest is taking place in New Orleans, but on Thursday, there was a mini Jazz Fest taking place in Howard Auditorium.

The Louisiana Tech Jazz Ensemble played in Howard on Thursday. There were many great performers, but one had a little more jazz than the others did.

Leon Anderson, a professional jazz percussionist and Tech Alumni, returned to the Howard Auditorium stage to play on drums, the very position that he played years earlier.

“It’s just good to be back, because I was in that group 20 years ago,” Anderson said.

The department of music asked Anderson to come back to Tech to receive the Music Alum of the Year award and to play with the Jazz Ensemble.

Anderson’s return to the stage was not just an honor, but also a reunion.

“He was our drummer in our jazz ensemble when I first got here,” said Lawrence Gibbs, Director of the Louisiana Tech Jazz Ensemble.

Gibbs was a graduate student when he first met Anderson. The two were able to play a song called “Sweet Georgia Upside Down” that was first performed when they both were at Tech together.

Anderson played the drums with such swift hand movements and never missed a beat.

After Anderson performed his last song, he got up, shook hands with Gibbs, and gave a thankful wave to the crowd.

“It was fun, I thought the concert went well,” said Anderson.

Indeed, it was fun. The other performances by the Jazz ensembles contained sax, trombone, and trumpet solos.

During the performance of “Sweets” Tiffany Woda, 1st in the trumpet section, performed her trumpet solo.

Corey Green, a member of the Tech chorus, sung vocals to “Moondance” wearing his dazzling sequin sweater vest that glittered with silver.

“I wanted to do something over the top to [fit] my personality and I was like sequins,” said Green.

Green’s performance was complete with finger snaps by the band in a classic jazz performance.

The whole night was full of classic jazz numbers, but the ensemble also played a more modern tune, the Family Guy Theme Song. The unlikely jazz tune usually heard at the beginning and end of the popular cartoon ended a great night of jazz.

Inside the Band of Pride

By: Lisa Plaisance

We all know it’s there–providing a soundtrack to football games, pumping up the crowd at pep rallies and marching in the homecoming parade–but what’s it like to be in the Band of Pride?

A lot of work, but worth it, at least according to many band members.

Daniel Barnes, a senior who plays the euphonium, said throughout the year the band meets four days a week to practice together for two hours. During the fall, they learn a different half-time show for every home game, meaning a possibility of learning three new songs multiple weeks in a row sometimes.

Freshman flute player, Shelby Holt said having a new performance so often can be very intense.

“It’s very nerve-wracking for me,” she said. “Pregame is always the same, but we learn a different half time show for every home game.”

Barnes said that besides these practices with the entire band, the different sections, such as the drum line, practice together outside of class often.

“We also have sectionals that get together outside of class so that’s possibly three hours a day instead of two,” said Barnes.

Holt said besides practicing in groups, band members also spend a lot of time practicing alone.

“Most people don’t realize the amount of work we put in,” she said. “There’s a lot of work on your own. Rehearsal is the time where we come together with what we’ve worked on on our own.”

However, all that time leads to one of Holt’s favorite parts of being in band–the relationships she builds with her fellow members.

“You really become like a family, spending so much time with them during marching season,” she said. “We develop a lot of good relationships and great memories.”

When many students think of the band, they only think of it playing at football games. However, this is just the beginning for the Band of Pride.

Jim Robken, director of the Band of Pride, said the band also plays at most men’s and women’s home basketball games and conference basketball tournaments and football bowl games when the budget permits.

The Band also plays at numerous other events throughout the year.

“This year we also marched in the Centaur Mardi Gras Parade in Shreveport,” said Robken. “The students in the band serve the university by performing at approximately 140 events in an academic year.”

“We are on call to the president [of the university] for whatever he needs us for,” said Robken.

Lawrence Gibbs, associate director of bands, said they received a call Wednesday from Daniel Reneau, president of the University, asking the band to play at the Thomas Assembly Center at noon today.

Robken said the band is also very busy before each home game.

On the mornings of home games, the Band of Pride gathers at 8 a.m. for a final rehearsal and is often busy the rest of the day until after the game.

“Football game days are pretty full, pep rallies, Walk of Pride for football team arrival, President’s Concert, Alumni Tailgate pep rally, building dedications and ground breakings, Time Out for Tech rallies,” he said.

Barnes said one thing that many people probably don’t know is that the band is not allowed to sit during the games.

“We’re supposed to cheer the whole time, which isn’t hard,” he said with a smile.

Barnes said the only bad part is when the team is losing and the weather is bad.

“The Only negative experience with the band apart from sweating in the heat is if the team’s doing really bad, or if the weather conditions are bad,” he said. “We stay and cheer, which is good, supporting the team, you just don’t always want to when it’s raining.”

“Like the Hawaii game when it was raining and the team was losing, some fans started to leave and we had to stay and play and cheer,” he said.

However, Barnes said that having to stay can also lead to some of the best parts.

“Staying there supporting the team when no one else is and then seeing them coming back and winning, is an incredible experience,” he said.

“The positive experiences far outweigh the three or four times I’ve wanted to leave [a game],” said Barnes, who has been a part of the Band of Pride for four years.

Holt said her favorite part is playing the music.

“The best thing is just getting that thrill when you’re about to perform,” she said. “I still get nervous but it’s a lot of fun.”

Cory Rowlodge, a senior who plays percussion in the marching band, agreed that performing is probably the best part.

“In class we’re going through, fixing parts and making them better, but in the performance, you get to put it all together,” she said.

Listing other positive aspects of being in the band, Barnes said he has been to every home game for four years and been on television multiple times. How many other students can say that?

One of his first times being on television with the band was when they went to the Independence Bowl his freshman year.

“That was incredible to be at that game and see them win that game,” he said.

Holt said the band also provides many opportunities for new experiences, such as going to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl.

While in San Diego, the Band of Pride also played in two Battle of the Bands with the marching band from Texas Christian University.

“We had a little trick up our sleeve at the Battle of the Bands on the USS Midway,” said Barnes. “We played our Salute to the Armed Forces, in which we go through every military branch’s anthem. So every veteran and sailor on that ship stood up, people were moved and lots of people came up and thanked us.”

Barnes said he felt the music they played was more enjoyable and better-played than that of the other band, even though the other band was bigger.

“We’re all about playing together, playing well, and being visually entertaining,” he said. “There’s no official winner but there were multiple parts where I felt we had the upper hand.”

The band played on national television this year at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, California, a highlight for many band members.

“Being able to represent Tech and Louisiana on national television, seeing the team come back from losing–those are incredible experiences,” Barnes said.

Pippin Center Stage

Review by Mel Grajek

Glory! Glory!  After months of rehearsing, Louisiana Tech’s theater department opened the spring musical “Pippin” to the public Wednesday, April 25.  With a performing cast of ten and a live orchestra of a 20, Stone Theater’s mini-stage was packed with flashes of light, dashes of color and a clatter of musical tones.  As for the house, on the second day of performing “Pippin” the audience was less than half-way packed, with most residents vacating their seats after the first act.

Though well-rehearsed and original in props, costume and set design, the performance left the audience as lost in plot as the main character, Pippin, was in the musical.  The performance followed a young man named Pippin as he searched for his “own corner in the sky,” but each new song dragged out the performance as if the musical were following Pippin through years of his life in real time.

The simply cladded actors matched one another in black tights, black shorts, black shirts and black shoes, with only a vibrant mask painted over the eyes as an aid to differentiate each character.  With only ten actors, roles were doubled and sometimes tripled as one actor played various characters creating a confusion within the story and breaking what thespians call the third-wall, the magical boundary between stage and audience that allows one to become enthralled and fully captivated within a story.  A small rack in the corner of the stage provided handmade garments such as a shawl, crown, brown hooded cloak and a red and gold vest, which actors would slip in and out of to highlight which characters they were playing.

The circus theme extended beyond the tights, masks and over-exaggerated  character flaws, into the air as actors hung from various colored silks descending from the light bar.  Fear-ridden performers struggled with transitions from one position to another as legs and arms became tangled in the silk strands while actors with leading roles muttered their difficulties into unmuted microphones.

Intermission interrupted a scene, leaving the audience to question if the play was over.  With no answers as to what the sudden break was for, multiple parties vacated the auditorium and missed ACT 2.  Frustration spread as a couple fought over staying or leaving.

“What the hell?” said Ruston local Taylor Williams as the ensemble bowed themselves off stage.

With minimal turn-out during the March audition for the musical, cast and crew were picked from existing theater majors, minors and other students needing to fill a theater or speech requirement for graduation curriculum.  The restricted pool of talent created a problem in casting diversity and resulted in actors performing outside of their ability.

Lead performer and junior theater major Payton Wilburn sang her way in and out of scenes throughout the musical as her character acted as a guide for Pippin, though a majority of her songs had the audience cringing as high notes were flattened and difficult bridges crumbled off key.  With a live orchestra on stage and only two characters miked, songs were overpowered by keyboards, guitars and drums while the message within the words was lost.

The pyrotechnics introduced a heightened excitement as Act 2 was rounding to a close, but lasted as briefly as the spark ignited on stage. Overall, the musical captured a sense of intrigue with the initial introduction of dangling silk, vibrantly painted masks and comical characters but the magic of mystery wore out its welcome by intermission, leaving room for confusion and frustration to set in.

Combat Training

 

By: Raney Johnson

I watched in amazement as ten students tried to stab each other.

With a prop knife in everyone’s hand, Professor Mark Guinn’s theater department combat class went from Upstage to Downstage slicing and dicing each other from head to stomach as they warmed up for class.

“It helps to warm up our reactions,” said Kelsey Mandis, one of the ten students in the combat class. “You can do warm ups but you have to do the part that warms up your brain.”

It was a 12-step program as Professor Guinn counted to twelve for each exercise. We did different variations of sit-ups and push-ups. I could not get my body up while doing the sit-ups and with the push-ups, I struggled a little bit, but the students in the combat class did the exercises with ease.Though I could not take part in the brain stimulating knife warm ups, I did get to do the exercising warm ups with the combat class.

After the physical and mental exercises, the class and I made our way to the George T. Madison hall courtyard to rehearse for Will Spirits, a play about dead characters from William Shakespeare’s plays.

“I really would like to turn this into environmental theater,” Professor Mark Guinn said. “Familiarize yourself with the terrain.”

That is exactly what the students did. Rachael, playing Hamlet, sat in the rose bushes shouting her lines. I too took part in the play and used the terrain, as I sat on one of the outdoor benches as an extra.

“Did they look alike,” Kelsey said while playing Ophelia as she put her hands on my thigh as a part of a dirty innuendo joke in the play.

My part was a little embarrassing and I would have liked to join in some of the combat, but I had no theater combat experience.

“Watch out for the head and stay away from the face,” Professor Guinn said.

He said this in reference to the most important part of the play, the bar fight at the end of the play. The scene involved all ten students trying to kill each other with knives.

“Secure it to your body where it is not visible,” Professor Guinn said.

The bar fight is meant to break out spontaneously at the end of the play after all the character scream out bar fight.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve,” Professor Guinn said as if the combat scene was a dance.

I at first thought that the counting was just a joke, but I soon learned that it was very important. Each number corresponded with a movement that each person in the play was suppose to do.

After Professor Guinn had his class go over the play multiple times and my thigh being touched one too many times, the students in the combat class had the majority of the play and fight scene memorized.In a way, the combat scene was like a dance. The only difference was that the knives did the leading in this dance.

After going through the experience of combat class the prospect of one day taking the class was definitely in my mind.

“The combat program is [the theater department’s] main recruiting factor,” Kelsey said.

From what I experienced in combat class, I can understand why that statement is true.

Professor Guinn and his combat class with their weapons in hand

Professor Guinn and his combat class with their weapons in hand

Budds Applauded in Faculty Concert

Cain Budds, assistant professor of guitar, played classical guitar in the last Faculty Concert of the year.

By: Lisa Plaisance

Adding a dramatic flare to his performance, the guitarist, Cain Budds,  slapped the body of the guitar with his right hand in rhythm to the song, a technique called golpe, while playing the song only with his left hand.

Upon finishing this movement, Budds received the loudest applause of the night besides the one which accompanied the standing ovation he received at the end. Madelyne Godley, a senior piano performance major, said this was her favorite part of the night.

“I particularly liked the third movement by [the composer] Bogdonavich when he was just playing the slurs with his left hand and banging on the guitar with his right,” she said.

The School of Performing Arts ended its Faculty Concert Series of the 2011-2012 season with a classical guitar performance by Cain Budds, an assistant professor of music, last night at 7:30 in University Hall.

Budds performed a wide range of music including sonatas, venezuelan waltzes, a sarabande and other Spanish compositions.

“There were many contrasting styles and many periods from which he played–from the medieval to modern period,” Godley said.

Scott Thompson, a senior music performance major, also enjoyed the variety of music played by Budds.

“The recital had a nicely rounded repertoire that included multiple genres and styles under the umbrella of classical guitar,” he said.

To someone who has never listened to much classical music, it is unlike anything else ever heard. Thompson said classical guitar is a much more unique and difficult skill than what someone might generally think of guitar-playing.

“Classical guitar is a wonderful style of playing that takes much more talent than strumming a few chords,” he said.

“It you can play classical, then you can play any other style, which allows the guitarist to cover a vast repertoire of music to perform to any audience.”

The increasing applause through the night indicated that the variety of music was well enjoyed by the audience, which included many music students.

One alumnus from Tech’s music department, Michael Reid, who studied guitar under Budds, said he greatly enjoying seeing Budds perform again.

“My favorite part was seeing my former professor kick butt,” he said. “It was very well put together with all the different kinds of music.”

Another thing that may have surprised an audience member not used to being close enough to see musicians well when they perform is the variety of facial expressions displayed by many musicians when they perform, and Budds was no exception.

His eyebrows continuously went from furrowed to raised, his eyes from squeezed shut to wide open looking at his guitar. It was as if he was reacting to the music he played. There were looks of surprise, looks of focus and looks of absolute satisfaction. He would lightly close his eyes and a lean into his guitar as if intently listening. He would tilt his head back as if to take it all in. He would nod with his lips held in and eyes closed as if to say “Ooh that was good.”

“Dr. Budds did a fantastic job as always,” he said. “He has the right combination of precision and musicality that is expected from a doctor of music, and his faces are a fun addition.”

According to Joe Alexander, an associate professor of music, that performance was the first one held in University Hall by the department of music.

Many who attended felt that the new venue was well suited for the performance.

“I reall enjoyed the new venue because the acoustics were really great for a guitar because it’s such a quiet muted instrument,” Godley said.

Thompson said the venue was good for the audience as well as the performer.

“University Hall made a great venue for the performance, having good acoustics for classical guitar and comfortable seating for the audience,” he said.

The room indeed had great acoustics. Every sound in the room could be heard by everyone—the turning over of the program, the shuffling of legs crossing or uncrossing and the creak of the plastic chairs. Most of the audience sat perfectly still, not making a sound. It seemed to be out of respect for the music and musician. When one person in the back continued moving around on the leather couch even when Budds began his next piece, making the noise that rubbing leather makes, many turned around and stared.

The Faculty Concerts are free to the public, a fact which was appreciated by some of the students who attended.

“I wish more people would give classical artists a chance because there are some really good performances at this University, especially by the professors of the music school who perform for free,” said Thompson.

Behind the Scenes

By Mel Grajek

William Shakespeare once put that “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players,” but what he didn’t expand on is that for a production to come together, we can’t all be actors.

As with any industry, theater presents its finished product to a public that rarely bears witness to the labor and organization poured into the production behind the scenes.  Before a production opens to the public, hours upon hours are spent rehearsing as line after line is memorized.  Every movement made on stage is predetermined through a choreographer’s blocking, a live soundtrack is fine-tuned by the orchestra, while sets, costumes and props are constructed by stage hands and a prop crew.

While each department works diligently on its own assignment, the stage management team provides the bridge between all the sectors, working day and night to funnel the director’s vision into a reality.

Stage manager Paula-Rae Brown, a junior theater major, heads up the spring musical production of Pippin with the help of first assistant manager Alison Wyant and second assistant stage manager Courtney Bertrand.

“You are involved with every aspect of the show, when you’re a stage manager,” said Brown. “With stage management, you are the first one in the building and the last one to leave at night.”

As she sifted through a massive stack of papers which littered her deck in search of a ringing cell phone, Brown explained that it is the responsibility of the stage manager to be in constant communication with everyone.  Everything from memorizing individual actor’s stage directions in order to provide proper lighting, to channeling the director’s vision of props and set design down the line to the prop crew falls on the shoulders of the stage manager.

“I always like to call what I do the CIA of theater,” Brown said, “which is where I am doing so many things you see, but don’t really know it.”

Day to day responsibilities of a stage manager require constant contact with various members of the production.  When Brown and her assistant managers are not arranging rehearsals, they are running light and sound checks, discussing details with the director about the final vision, and literally taping out on stage the location of the live band so that blocking of the actors’ movements will not interfere with the musicians.

Paul Crook, professor for both undergraduate and graduate classes and director of this spring’s musical Pippin, has proposed a task to his prop and stage management crew: the trunk of love.  Crook’s vision is to have a trunk of some sort on stage, where actors can walk over and pull out various props and costume pieces instead of having to grab them off stage from someone in the management crew.

“We could maybe place all the props in the trunk of love in order as they are needed,” Crook said to Brown during rehearsal.  “Talk to Ryan Gentry and see what you guys can come up with.”

Ryan Gentry, a senior theater major, usually acts in the quarterly productions but this spring is prop manager for Pippin.  Together with the stage management team and various other crew members, they are in charge of both purchasing props and hand crafting items needed for the production, like the trunk of love.

“You can be creative and not be an actor,” said Brown with a chuckle.

The Unknown Drummers

Phi Boota Roota- a growing percussion fraternity

some of the Phi Boota Roota members and one of their founders

Though almost unknown outside of the band building, Louisiana Tech has a growing percussion fraternity, the Phalam Stutter chapter of Phi Boota Roota, Inc.

With its growing membership, Phi Boota Roota wants to continue expanding in the university and Ruston community and put more effort into its service component as it is more able to with its increasing membership.

This year the organization has more than doubled in membership, adding mostly non-music majors.

Scott Thompson, president of the Phalam Stutter chapter and a senior music major, said some groups only draw in people who are similar to themselves.

“We tend to draw all kinds of different characters. We take this one thing we have in common and just run with it,” he said.

Even many of the members from the music department do not play a percussion instrument as their main instrument.

Cory Rowlodge, a senior music major with a concentration in saxophone, and new member, said she joined because the organization is a music fraternity that also has a large focus on service and it was something she could do with her friend, Stephanie. Rowlodge said her friend was a big part in getting her to join.

“Stephanie joined because she wanted to be part of a guy group and because percussionists are usually cooky and fun and a way for us to hang out,” Rowlodge said.

Thompson said that the group was not created exclusively for students in the music department.

“It was built to help people become better percussionists, whether they already are one, or are just interested in percussion,” he said.

 “Right now our main draw for members is the band and choir. We’re trying to expand to the rest of campus—anyone who has a general interest in percussion or played in junior high or high school or just wants to play.”

Thompson compared the organization to Tech’s Bulldog Achievement Resource Center in the way that it is available for anyone who is interested.

“We’re open to anyone who wants or needs it, except with percussion because that’s what we do,” he said.

The organization hosts a meeting every Thursday at 8:30 p.m. open to the public to educate people in different percussion instruments.

“We’re coming back to doing more performances, getting percussion out there as an art form to the Ruston and Grambilng communities,” Thompson said.

He said they want to do more service work this year because they are better able to with more people being a part of the organization. He said that previously, most of the service work involved helping out the band.

“We’re the main source for moving instruments and equipment,” he said. Thompson said they have also been a part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Ruston every year and one year painted playground equipment for a park in Ruston.

“We’re also trying to do more nonprofit work in the Ruston community, now that we have the hands to do it.”

Thompson noted the large elderly population in Ruston and said that is an area of service they are considering.

Tech’s chapter of Phi Boota Roota also has a focus on the next generation and percussion. Bradlee Martin, a freshman music major said they spend time with younger students and high school percussion students teaching, mentoring, and encouraging them to continue pursuing percussion in whatever way that may be.

“We’re big on helping out high school groups because there’s not a lot in north Louisiana for young percussion groups,” he said.

Some members spend their time giving lessons to younger students. Rowlodge said they also inform younger students about the music department at Tech, hoping to recruit more musicians to the university.

“We’re hoping to bring more percussion people to Tech.” she said. “A bigger band equals more support for Tech.”

 

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