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Winter 2003

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Jazzed

For twenty-five years, Down Beat magazine has been giving awards in recognition of students and teachers who have “cultivated and nurtured the growth of jazz education, enjoying the success that hard work and dedication bring.” Many past winners have become well-known teachers, performers, and music industry executives. According to Down Beat, the awards are becoming “bigger and more prestigious. The competition to win [is] fierce.”
Jeff Parker ’03

Jason Domnarski ’03

Mac Guy ’04
     Skidmore had never won a Down Beat award; in fact, no student jazz group from the college had ever entered the competition. But all that changed last year when the Jason Domnarski Trio recorded a CD that earned kudos in the category of “College Outstanding Performance” for a jazz instrumental group. (There were fifty-six entries in this category alone, and 600 entries overall.)
     The players—pianist Domnarski ’03, drummer Robert “Mac” Guy ’04, and bassist Michael Delprete ’02—had no real expectations of winning and were as surprised as anyone when they did. “It was pretty wild, for both the band and Skidmore,” Domnarski recalls. “It was a nationwide competition, and we were up against bigger groups from colleges that devote their curriculums to jazz.”
     Longtime Skidmore artist-in-residence and ensemble coach John Nazarenko ’84—who recorded the trio’s fifty-minute CD in Filene Recital Hall last fall and served as the group’s representative for the Down Beat award—agrees that for a small, liberal arts college, this is “a very impressive accomplishment.” The trio—reconfigured this year with bassist Jeffrey Parker ’03—recorded another CD in November, and Nazarenko thinks “they have a terrific chance of winning” again.
     “Jason is extraordinarily advanced as a jazz pianist, very introspective,” Nazarenko remarks. “Although there are often talented students in college, they usually focus on technical mastery; they don’t exhibit this level of personal self-assessment in their playing until much later in their development.”
     Domnarski, a music major, took to the keyboard when he was six. He came to college intending to major in English, but the influence of Skidmore’s jazz program proved pivotal. After playing in ensembles coordinated by the department, he decided to get his own trio going last year. Parker, a Filene scholar with a double major in music and environmental studies, also plays cello in the college orchestra, a string quintet, and a horn septet. Guy, a double major in English and government, plays in other music groups as well—including three trios, Skidmore’s big band, and a quintet. (Coincidentally, Guy and Parker both attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., whose music groups regularly take home Down Beat awards of their own. But the pair’s musical paths didn’t overlap until they came to Skidmore.)
     “We have a great time playing,” Domnarski says of his trio. “Everyone puts in 100 percent, and it’s a lot of fun.” Two of the guys will graduate this spring—and decide whether or not to try to make a living at music—but for the moment, it’s all play. —MTS

At Skidmore jazz is in
Walk through Filene at 11 p.m. any night, and you’re likely to hear a couple of different jazz combos rehearsing. There is an amazing interest in jazz at Skidmore, and it has grown over the years. We now have six faculty teaching jazz piano, sax, electric/ acoustic bass, guitar, drums, and trombone. This semester there are seven official combos of three to eight students each. There’s the big band, coached by Mark Vinci. Plus, many of the students have their own groups apart from their class combos.
     The liberal arts environment is a perfect match for jazz. Students who are serious musicians find avenues to explore and opportunities to play. Less serious students get exposure to an American cultural idiom. The music department is even starting to offer academic courses in jazz, including jazz arranging and jazz theory. —John Nazarenko ’84

 


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