Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / September 21, 2011

Putting the Art in Liberal Arts: Music

The music department at Knox, according to the department chair Bruce Polay, “serves at least a third of the student body.” With the various ensembles, private instruction and courses, there is plenty to see.

Aside from the weekly Thursday Jazz Nights, there are other jazz performances to look forward to this term. On Friday, Oct. 21, the Cherry Street Combo will be performing in Kresge Recital Hall for Family and Friends Weekend at 7:30 p.m.

The next day, the Gizmo will be hosting a Jazz-a-thon starting from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. As Nikki Malley, Director of Jazz Studies explains, the Jazz-a-thon is one of two annual fundraisers for the jazz program. The proceeds cover instrument repair and replacement costs, as well as travel funding for jazz competitions.

Yet, as music major, percussionist and active member of the music program (Cherry St. Combo, Poets and Peasants, Knox Jazz Ensemble), senior Sam Lewis notes, the department can “do a lot with a little.”

Each of the nine jazz combos has an opportunity to perform for an hour in the Gizmo during the Jazz-a-thon, so it’s a great chance to listen to live jazz. This year, one of the nine jazz combos became a Jazz Vocal Combo, which is, as the name suggests, an ensemble comprised of vocalists.

The Knox Jazz Ensemble will also be performing at the Fall Concert on Oct. 29 in Kresge Recital Hall. In regards to student interest in the jazz program, Malley confesses, “I’ve never seen this many students this serious on the first day.” Despite the fresh faces in the jazz program, there is no concern that the quality will suffer; in fact, Malley is thankful that she has such “strong musical leadership” distributed throughout the ensembles.

This term, the choir is also equally busy. Music major and active member of the Knox choir community (Knox College Choir, Chamber Singers, Nova Singers and Soulfege), senior Ed Davis is most excited about participating in the Nova Singers concert, “Voices and Keys,” with Ashlee Mack, a piano instructor. The concert will be held on Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Kresge.

The concert program includes American Folk songs, part-songs by Brahms and, as Director of Choral Activities Laura Lane describes, “the dramatic and virtuosic” Mid-Winter Songs by Morten Lauridsen. Also, the Nova Singers will be performing a selection of traditional carols in addition to featuring a new carol composed by Daniel Godsil.

This concert will be taking place on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa. There is also an opportunity to see them perform in Galesburg the following day at the First Lutheran Church.

Polay, conductor of the symphony, believes that there are a greater variety of courses offered in the music department. For example, he is teaching a relatively new course in songwriting. In addition, there is a course in ethnomusicology and the African Diaspora.

Polay also mentioned a violin and tabla duo from India performing Sept. 30. However, Lewis believes, “the department needs to grow … and offer more outside of the Western tradition.” Additionally, the Knox-Galesburg Symphony is in the final process of releasing a commemorative CD celebrating their 60-year anniversary. President Teresa Amott is expected to speak at their concert.

Polay is optimistic that interest in music as a major will continue to grow; in fact, he believes, “the major itself is looking very strong.” There was great interest in the introductory music courses offered at the 100-level as they were closed out very quickly. Moreover, Polay has noted that music is increasingly becoming recognized as “a viable subject in both the arts and the humanities.”

Lily Gaetgaeow

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