Pre-holiday season with jazz
Arba Karcini
Towers Staff

During this past week, it was impossible not to have heard some jazz notes around campus. The WPI Jazz Group performed last week in Alden Hall and the Goat’s Head Restaurant on Wednesday, December 4 and Saturday, December 7. The Wednesday night performance was especially a big event since the Clark University Jazz Group joined WPI’s Stage Band to give an amazing performance. In fact, the partnership of the two universities’ jazz groups is a long one and both directors, Professor James Alard (Clark University) and Professor Richard Falco (WPI), are enthusiastic about their work and collaboration as well as the exchange of the experiences their students are gaining.

The event started at 7 p.m. and the first group to perform was Clark University, conducted by their Jazz Studies director, Professor Alard. Then the WPI Jazz Band took the stage, conducted by the director of Jazz Studies, Professor Falco. The atmosphere was lovely, with shiny instruments and talented students, whose music involved everyone. The jazz concert was a good accompaniment for the dinner.

After the event, I had the opportunity to talk to Professor Falco, and he was pleased to share the WPI Jazz Group History with the readers of the newspaper:

“When I came here at 1978 there was no jazz at all at WPI, while now we have an entire program. It all started with small groups of students, ensembles, and now we have jazz courses like Jazz History, Jazz Theory, etc.”

How did you raise interest in jazz at WPI and make the Jazz Group be so recognized?

“It was a challenge, at first. It has been a personal challenge for me because it was a time when I was here at WPI but also at Clark University to ‘recreate’ their jazz group after a long pausing period. However, what I love about WPI is that students here are tech-minded and hands-on. I had to find a way to artistically express the creativity and individuality that makes every student here outstanding. And, it was jazz, because jazz is a language, a celebration of individuality, where everyone else supports that. Jazz is also referred to as improvisation, which is the collaborative part. In a jazz group there are the individual and the supporters, just like WPI’s group-based learning, where students are encouraged to express themselves and get a lot of help from each other. That is why the Jazz Group blossoms.”

How is the Jazz Group organized and what activities do you hold?

“We have WPI Jazz Ensemble where there are nine students involved. They have performances like the one at the Goat’s Head on Saturday. Then, there is the WPI Jazz Workshop, which is open to all students interested in jazz music and the WPI Stage Band, the largest ensemble with 22 students. The president of the Jazz Group is Anthony DeCicco ’14.  Most of the students involved are minoring in music and in our group we have students from all the class years, including freshmen, who maintain our continuity and success. Approximately, in a year, we organize 30-35 concerts here and abroad. The best part of international concerts is that we spread American music, because jazz is part of American culture, and at the same time these concerts provide a great learning experience for the students. We have travelled in a lot of places but mostly all throughout Europe and even in African countries like Egypt.”

Let’s return to the tonight concert. What were some of the selected pieces that were played?

“Tonight we played a variety of musical pieces like: “Body snatchers,” “Vamos a Bolair,” “Matador,” “Chrysalis.” They are all new comings composed from new artists. We made that choice in order to promote and support these current composers.”

The performance was a grand display of jazz music and culture and I enjoyed it tremendously! Do you have any closing words for us?

“Jazz the holiday season!”