UNA’s Jazz Band hosts Valentine’s concert

Kelley Peters, News Editor

The University of North Alabama’s Studio Jazz Band offers members the opportunity to venture out of their normal playing styles while also advancing their technical skills as musicians. 

Dr. Lloyd Jones, UNA’s Director of Bands, runs the Studio Jazz Band. His father started the group in 1966. Jones feels that, by continuing to direct this group and teach jazz to his students, he is continuing the legacy of jazz music in the United States. 

“We’re the only university that runs a Studio Jazz Band,” said Jones. “The reason I do that is I know we will not have educators teaching jazz to their students unless they have an experience in it. I want more students to get an experience in this group so they can teach it to the next generation. Otherwise, we lose jazz. It will be in name only that it’s our art form because there’s not anybody teaching it, so we need to push that.” 

The Studio Jazz Band consists of 32 students who must audition to earn one of the limited spots. To make the group different from a normal Jazz Band, Jones adds extra positions to give more students a chance to join and create a different musical experience. 

“We have the standard instrumentation of a Big Band, which is trumpets, trombones, saxes and a rhythm section,” Jones said. “We add to that a section of flutes, clarinets and french horns, and an extra percussionist or two. When we augment the traditional Big Band, we’re giving more students a great educational experience in a specialized area.” 

One of these students is Dylan Mashburn, a graduate student who plays the trombone for the Studio Jazz Band. He feels that being a part of this group has enhanced his playing abilities and given him a broader knowledge of music. 

“This ensemble is really where the nitty-gritty comes in,” said Mashburn. “We assume that you know how to play notes and rhythms, so this is where we learn to play with style. We do a lot of sectional work and take a lot of time to get into the really fine details. You can put as much time into it as you want, but I say, as a leader, I’m still gaining in teaching these college-level kids. There’s so much that you get just working on that type of music.” 

Students in the Studio Jazz Band get opportunities to perform at various events on or around campus, such as commencement and the Miss UNA pageant. 

The most recent of these performances was the annual Valentine’s Day concert, entitled “Hooray for Love!”, which took place on Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. in Norton Auditorium. 

The concert opened with the Shoals Area Big Band, a group formed in 1979 that is made up of mostly UNA Band alumni. The group played seven jazz tunes with multiple solos, and two songs featured Melissa Daniels as a vocalist. This exciting introduction set the tone for the rest of the concert.

In intermissions, there were drawings for door prizes ranging from dinners for two to ornate floral decorations. 

Then, the Studio Jazz Band took the stage, entertaining the audience with love songs from “Almost Like Being in Love” to “Slow Boat to China.” The group was joined by guest vocalists Suzanne Reese-Mills and her husband Drew Mills. Their chemistry onstage added to the romantic atmosphere.

By holding the concert and presenting the general public with live jazz music, Jones made progress toward his goal of perpetuating jazz education for future generations of musicians and listeners alike. Mashburn feels that the Studio Jazz Band’s concerts provide all in attendance with a delightful, unforgettable experience.

“This is a real high-class, high-quality type of concert that’s really hard to find,” Mashburn said. “The level that Dr. Jones makes for this band program is very unique, so it’s high-class and entertaining.”