Beginning Friday evening, Friends University is striking up the band — and the orchestra.
The Friends Jazz Vocal Ensemble and the Jazz Band will perform Friday. On Monday night, the 65-member Concert Band will play. Three days later, the Community Orchestra will perform a classics concert.
“It’s a real great snapshot of the fine arts community at Friends,” Stephen Eaves, chairman of the fine arts division, said. “These performances just show you how much variety we have in our program.”
Along with the music, Friends will pay tribute to its graduating seniors, with several featured. Daniel Byers, a senior alto saxophone player from Arkansas City, is playing in three of the performances — Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Band and Concert Band.
“There’s a complete difference between the two (concert and jazz band),” Byers said. “The sound and tone are different. Even the setup is different. The saxophones use different mouthpieces, different necks and different reeds.”
Byers enjoys playing classical and jazz pieces. He said that classical music produces a rounded sound while the jazz pieces have a bright, fat sound.
Members of the jazz band performed in Havana, Cuba, last fall. They were one of the few college bands invited to play.
“By far, that was my most life-changing experience,” Byers said. “The music was great. We all went to Cuba and came back changed people.”
Four other seniors will be highlighted during the jazz concert at Friends. Two jazz bands will perform. One group has 19 members; the other band has 17.
“We try to play very listenable jazz,” Lisa Hittle, director of the jazz program, said. Compositions from the 1930s to the present day will be performed.
Byers also will accompany the 4-year-old jazz ensemble. The ensemble, led by Craig Curry, recently was invited to perform at a national education conference, another invitation-only event.
“The students just continue to impress me,” Curry said. “You can tell that they really enjoy what they are doing.”
The ensemble will perform a piece by Curry, a noted composer of sacred choral music. The Wichita premiere of this five-movement jazz Mass features several group members who will sing in Latin and English.
“It’s a modern-day Mass,” Curry said.
Each movement features a different aspect of jazz, from bebop to samba to blues.
“I’m impressed by the balance of it,” Byers said. “It’s going to be a great piece.”
In addition to the Mass, the vocal concert will feature well-known ballads and popular jazz tunes, including “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
Byers also will play his saxophone at the Concert Band performance. Fellow senior Jeremy Schrag, from Inman, will be featured on the soprano saxophone. Schrag will perform a work that evokes the spirit of a sunset.
“It follows the various colors as the sun is setting. It goes all the way to black,” John Taylor, the band’s director, said. “You don’t often get the opportunity to hear a soprano saxophone featured.”
This 65-member band also will play familiar tunes for woodwinds and brass. These works include “Four Scottish Dances” by Malcolm Arnold and “Rhythm of the Winds” by Frank Erickson. They also will perform a march by Henry Fillmore entitled “Military Escort.”
The music season at Friends will round out with the mighty B’s — Beethoven, Brahms and Bach. The Friends Orchestra will play “great firsts” by these three revered German composers.
“The students have just risen to the challenge again and again,” Curry said.