Ensembles all jazzed up

Leia Karimul Bashar

The Washburn jazz ensembles put on a swinging free show Thursday night in White Concert Hall, and the audience could dig it.

The program included toe-tapping tunes by Duke Ellington, Curtis Fuller, Chick Corea and Miles Davis.

Craig Treinen, director of jazz studies and applied saxophone at Washburn, was the man in charge for the evening, and he came across as the kind of professor who students can relate to. Christine Willet, sophomore, is a music education major who plays alto sax with the Concert Jazz Ensemble, and she performed several improvisational solos during the evening. She said working with Treinen has been a terrific experience.

“He’s a pretty laid-back guy most of the time, but he likes to push us, too,” said Willet, who has been involved with jazz since junior high.

Many of the Washburn jazz players were involved with jazz performance in middle school and high school for several years prior to their stints in the Washburn jazz ensembles. Alex Rosell, freshman, is a music education who plays baritone sax in the WU Jazz Ensemble II.

The clarinet is Rosell’s primary instrument, “and I’m much better on the clarinet,” he said, “but the saxophone’s a lot more fun. It’s very similar to the clarinet, so it’s easy to pick up.”

Rosell said middle school was where he was introduced to fun, jazzy types of music.

“Actually, it wasn’t really a jazz band, but we played fun stuff and it was a smaller group,” he said. “I guess my real start in jazz was during my sophomore year of high school at Topeka West.”

William Dale, who plays alto sax in the WU Jazz Ensemble II, is a junior at Topeka High School who has been taking saxophone lessons with Treinen for about a year and a half.

“I’ve been with the Topeka Jazz Workshop since the seventh grade,” said Dale. “I became familiar with improv there, and then I really got into it this year with Craig.”

So what is it like to be up there on the stage, using a musical instrument to create notes out of thin air in front of an audience of hundreds of people? Willet said she still feels nervous on stage during her improvisational solos. However, Dale said he doesn’t usually suffer from nerves while he is improvising.

“It kind of depends on the venue,” he said. “I’m also in the jazz band at Topeka High, so I have a lot of gigs. You kind of get used to it after a while.”