CCU jazzes up fall concert season

09/13/2013 12:00 AM

09/13/2013 6:52 AM

“Portfolios: Senior Thesis Exhibition," Dec. 3-14, with closing reception 4:30 p.m. Dec. 13

Matthew White was jazzed up about fall semester all summer long.

The trumpeter and music professor in his second year at Coastal Carolina University has lined up several monthly jazz concerts on campus this fall.

“Matt White and Friends” on Monday, the Dave Douglas Quintet Oct. 4, and the CCU Jazz Band Fall Concert Nov. 19, are among many CCU music and theater performances for which the whole Grand Strand community is welcome to take in.

White had taught music in Nashville, Tenn., and freelanced there as a musician, even playing at the Grand Ole Opry on radio broadcasts on WSM-AM 650 from the historic Ryman Auditorium. He said CCU starting this autumn with “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert” with two shows through Friday stamps marks a new stride for the school’s growing music program and breadth in students “who have the chops to do something like that.”

His enthusiasm also will crest Nov. 19 when welcoming a crew of friends from Music City and New York in concert who also lent their talents on a CD, “The Super Villain Jazz Band,” which ARC Music will release Oct. 1: Jeff Coffin, whose resume includes playing for the Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck, on saxophones, Michael Feinberg (Billy Hart Group) on bass, Joe Davidian (Chester Thompson Trio) on piano, and Dana Hawkins (Jeremy Pelt) on drums.

White also said when Douglas, a Grammy Award-nominated trumpet player, will perform with a quintet at CCU in October, he also will give an afternoon master class for students.

“When we get these people in,” White said, “it’s not only a great cultural event for our audiences to go to hear their music in concert; they also play an educational component.”

Such “world class” special guests also talk about the necessary tools for a music career, especially important in an industry “landscape changing incredibly fast” with all the technological advances.

Sharing ‘studio perspective’

White said he also enjoys sharing with students some “studio perspective” from a hot spot for recording such as Nashville. Some youth might have a different career facet of music calling; not just immersion in an instrument, but maybe through working for a recording label or studio.

Composers, White said, used to write just for orchestras, but those avenues have expanded into other vast commercial folds, including films and video games. So, widening class instruction for more sources to reflect other parts of the music business to reflect those aspects and how to network.

White said having “made all these friends and relationships in Nashville,” the concept for “The Super Villain Jazz Band” CD arose, but the “long process” to finally get it together took time, and beyond the recording and mixing of the final selections, the effort also entails planning for marketing and distribution.

Pondering the school year just begun, White said forming bands and ensembles brings an unknown tangible, but that the deepening foundation in CCU’s music curricula brings benefits. One jazz band, built up through the years by Dan O’Reilly, fetched so much interest that “we had to audition for the band ... an amazing problem.”

Moving forward musically

Philip Powell, a pianist who chairs CCU’s music department, said he appreciates White’s talent, background and “easygoing demeanor” to move the college forward musically in multiple ways.

One area Powell pegged for growth among youth at Coastal covers jazz and a commercial emphasis within the music major, and that White has “kind of spearheaded this” with recording and technology classes and music arranging.

“Music, like every other discipline,” Powell said, “is changing, and it has changed so dramatically with all the electronics and things that were considered standard industry practice, with records and CDs, and now all of that is going by the wayside.”

Helping guide youth toward career pursuits, part of that involves “embracing some other technologies and what we consider nontraditional routes,” Powell said.

In his 25th year on CCU’s staff, he said although it might have been viewed “as a small kid, ... it has thought big.”

He cited “the three prongs that define academia”: teaching students and giving them access to “real-world experience,” the community having “fine entertainment,” and the pulling together of resources, resources and scholarship to support the whole endeavor.

Thomas Penn, the artistic director at Atlantic Stage, a professional theater that will begin its sixth season of plays on Sept. 19 with “All in the Timing” in the 79th Avenue Theatre at CCU’s Myrtle Beach Education Center, praised the school’s own theater department for another “great season lined up”

About two weeks before the first pitch of the Major League postseason, “The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” opens for two weekends Sept. 19 on CCU’s Edwards Theatre, on the main campus in Conway.

Penn said Atlantic Stage working alongside CCU proves great in two regards, through use of the 79th Avenue Theatre and exposing more people to CCU’s programs and arts and community value, and with opportunities to let theater students learn alongside professionals.

That partnership has been mutually beneficial, Penn said, and he doesn’t think Atlantic Stage would’ve been as successful without that college connection.

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