CSUB music professor Jim Scully takes over for Doug Davis as the new director of the jazz ensemble, opening the music department's 2012-13 concert season Friday night.
Scully, who has worked for several years with small jazz ensembles, has added his own touch to the big band -- focusing on an all-student ensemble, instead of the community band the ensemble had become in recent years.
"While we've always appreciated the help of community members to support the group, I think it's important for the students to play this music without the help of ringers who come in to save the day," Scully said.
Scully said he and Davis discussed plans to change the focus of the ensemble, which also includes changing the rehearsal schedule from one night a week, to three times a week during the day.
"They're learning better, and the attendance is better," Scully said.
The ensemble will perform two works composed for the group -- "Bango Skanky" by freshman pianist Tony Rinaldi, and an arrangement of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" written by Scully. Other selections in the program include "Afro Blue," "Sugar," "Blues for a Purpose," "Gift for Antonio Carlos," "Solar" and others.
"It's a pretty diverse set, but next quarter we'll be a little more adventurous once we get our sea legs under us," Scully said.
Chamber orchestra director Leo Sakomoto has similar hopes for his ensemble. The chamber orchestra will perform on Sunday afternoon, with an ensemble of 29 performers, 17 of whom are students. The chamber orchestra also boasts a diverse program: the "Egmont" Overture by Beethoven; Five Folk Melodies by Lutoslawski; Peter Warlock's "Capriol Suite"; the Symphony No. 5 by Schubert; and Romanian Folk Dances by Bartok.
"I just went first of all for variety," Sakomoto said. "I wanted them to be exposed to, shall we say, lesser-known works."
Sakomoto joined the CSUB music faculty this year as a full-time instructor. Sakomoto said he is taking a long-term approach to building the orchestra into an all-student ensemble.
"I think in general we want it to become a great majority of students in the orchestra and the (community) band," Sakomoto said. "But I think that's a longer-term rather than a shorter-term goal."
Scully agrees, even to the point of having some vacancies in the jazz band to keep the focus on students.
"We have two low brass, four instead of five saxophones," Scully said. "We're kind of making our own way in the hopes that in two or three years, we'll have a full ensemble."
Scully said right now, the band is dealing with the vacancies by finding arrangements that fit the current configuration, and writing new material. Scully said the students benefit more from relying on themselves instead of on seasoned performers.
"We have a really strong rhythm section, and that's holding things together," Scully said. "The big thing is that it puts the responsibility on the students to learn," Scully said.
"And we will grow as a group," Scully said.
The CSUB Singers also perform this weekend, with a concert of American music entitled "From Sea to Shining Sea," the concert is the culmination of a day-long choir festival. Composer, conductor and clinician Bradley Ellingboe of the University of New Mexico will be working with the singers during the festival and conduct the combined festival chorus.