The music program at Tech is growing and making itself heard. This year, the Jazz Ensemble will be playing in the Jazz Educator Network’s Annual JENerations Jazz Festival to be held in Atlanta. The event is the ensemble’s largest event of the year, performing alongside over six hundred other musicians on January 5th at the Peachtree Hyatt.
Tech’s Jazz Ensemble, made up of large jazz groups and smaller combos, is directed by Dr. Chip Crotts, an assistant professor of the School of Music. The ensemble is one of thirty from across the nation that have been chosen to perform at this year’s conference. Among them, only fifteen are university jazz groups.
“There has definitely been a lot of interest [in the Jazz Festival] throughout the School of Music. I know the students are really excited about the opportunity to perform for a very large national audience here in Atlanta,” Crotts said.
The JENerations Jazz Festival will feature musicians of all ages from all over the world, performing a variety of styles including swing, bebop, Latin jazz, rock, funk and R&B.
This year, Tech’s ensemble will perform selections from this Fall’s performances.
According to the festival’s website, the event will feature concerts for jazz ensembles, big bands and vocal jazz ensembles. Some of the biggest names in jazz will also be present to critique participating groups.
Preparations for the festival are already underway with a Fall concert on Tuesday and a performance at Under the Couch next Friday in addition to weekly practice. The ensemble also plans to return to campus early in January to prepare for the festival on the weekend.
Crotts has found that living in Atlanta also has also enhanced his interest in teaching jazz. A Grammy-nominated trumpet player, Crotts has performed with national and international artists and still performs professionally around Atlanta. He shares his experiences with his students and, occasionally, even performs for them.
Crotts explained that jazz is a truly traditional American art form. In addition, unlike other styles and genres of music, there are elements such as improvisation that are central to jazz, with unique rhythms and melodies.
Crotts, a former associate professor at other universities where all students were music majors, sees the same passion and talent in the Tech students involved in music on campus.
“I found at Tech that there’s no difference in how excited and passionate about music they are and how interested they are in it … they love jazz, they love performing, they love playing,” Crotts said.
Many students in ensembles find music to be a reprieve from the daily grind of engineering, business and other coursework. It also gives students an outlet to express themselves and engage their more creative side.
Crotts emphasized that a devotion to music can soothe a student’s otherwise stressed mind. A subject of Crotts’s research is the idea that learning to play a wind instrument can promote well-being.
“One of my research agendas is looking at ways to improve not only the health of musicians but people in general. [I’m] finding that playing wind instruments doing breathing exercises are things that really help to improve the health outcomes of people,” Crotts said.
The School of Music welcomes musicians with different interests and various skill levels to join an ensemble on campus. Discussions are underway to expand the School’s presence by creating an undergraduate major in music. Over 1500 students perform in musical ensembles at Tech.
“Many major research universities and institutions in the country have strong arts programs because the things that the arts bring to students are very strongly felt. Having a thriving music program or an arts program is really beneficial to the school. I hope that someday Tech will not only be a leading institution for engineering, but also for music,” Crotts said.