National acts, community unite at Schnitzer sound check

On Feb. 28 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by celebrated trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, performed an open sound check at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The sound check preceded the night’s sold-out concert, featuring the music of Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

“This band is on a mission to entertain and educate,” said Monica Hayes, education and community engagement program director for the Oregon Symphony.

Roughly 150 band students from around the city were in attendance for the event. Following the sound check, an open question-and-answer session with the orchestra provided the students with a valuable opportunity to interface firsthand with the JALCO.

“Wynton Marsalis is well known in the music community to be a rabid educator,” Hayes said. “In every venue they play in, they invite students to attend rehearsals and always entertain questions.”

In addition to having a storied career, Marsalis has long been an advocate for musical education. This commitment toward fostering the betterment of young and aspiring musicians has merited considerable respect and admiration from fellow musicians, fans and the public at large.

“Mr. Marsalis is an extraordinary musician and leader,” said Jim Fullan, vice president of communications, marketing and sales for the Oregon Symphony. “To have reached the pinnacle of success like he has and still remain committed to educating and sharing his time with students is truly remarkable.”

Portland State’s women’s basketball team also made an appearance, sitting in for the sound check and Q-and-A along with head women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell and assistant coach Brad Strickland.

“[Murrell] asked if there was a way that the team could experience a rehearsal of the Oregon Symphony, but their practice and class schedule worked for them to sit in on the JALC sound check better,” Hayes said.

“They were asked to watch the band members and how tight their teamwork was as they played, [and] also how they worked out adjustments needed to make the whole piece be about the music and not so much the individuals.”

Members of the Oregon Symphony’s administrative team expressed excitement over the considerable interest the sound check and concert had generated, demonstrating fully their ongoing desire to interact with the community.

“We love sharing our work with the community, and PSU is an important partner and neighbor,” Fullan said. “This is why the Oregon Symphony has established its student ticket program, through which students can attend many of our performances for $10.”

Marsalis’ commitment to education has served as a source of inspiration for many musicians, some of whom took his lessons to heart at a young age and have gone on to pursue music as a profession.

“Ever since he reached national acclaim in the mid-1990s, Mr. Marsalis has been teaching and advocating for music,” said Charles Reneau, a trombonist for the Oregon Symphony and instructor at PSU.

“In fact, when I was growing up, his work touched my life in two specific ways. First, I was exposed to his Marsalis on Music videos, which provided me with some initial inspiration as well as lessons that I teach my music students at PSU,” Reneau said.

Marsalis’ interactive approach to music education, as well as his obvious energy and passion, has been a source of inspiration and joy for musicians throughout the years and continues to provide a valuable alternative to more formulaic and impersonal styles of teaching.

“Marsalis’ work in promoting music education helps stem the tide of mindless, rote, for-the-test style education that is currently ascendant,” Reneau said.

As the Q-and-A session ended and people began to filter out of the concert hall, the general atmosphere brimmed with positivity and possibility. The entire experience was imbued with a definite sense of inspiration and those involved were already eager for another opportunity to work with the esteemed trumpeter and his orchestra.

“It’s not that often that a visiting group shares such time with students,” said Fullan. “We can’t wait to have them back!”