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Video: ASU Jazz Band surprises all with their sound at Highland Jazz Fest

The band is not your typical state university jazz ensemble


The ASU Jazz Band plays at Highland High School in Gilbert, Arizona, for the Highland/ASU Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 6, 2019.

The Arizona State University Concert Jazz Band is big on the jazz scene in Arizona, performing with renowned jazz artists from across the United States every year at the Highland/ASU Jazz Festival. The band is an example of the opportunity offered by the ASU School of Music despite being located outside of the big music scenes of Los Angeles and New York. The band is made up of all kinds of majors and performs at a high level.


Jayson Davis: I really like going to the Highland Jazz Festival and playing for a lot of really excellent and promising young high schoolers and showing them what actually exists here at ASU. I think a lot of local Arizona people, I'm born and raised in Arizona so I know this is true, kind of take the state universities for granted, especially as schools of music. I think we pleasantly surprise a lot of people when we show up and we sound the way we do. 

Ryan Taranto: I'm actually from Pennsylvania so nowhere close to here. I had no idea what the music program was going to be like, but when I found out and I met some of the professors — I met Mr. Kocour and I met my trumpet teacher — and I was like "Wow you know this is actually a really great place that I didn't even know" because I'd come out here to check out the business school. Finding out that the music program is so well put together with amazing professors who know what they're talking about, all the more helped me make my decision to come here. 

Michael Kocour: The ASU Concert Jazz Band is typically an 18 piece group that plays music from throughout the history of jazz. The social role of a big band would be for dancing. What's unique about a jazz ensemble is we have to move together, we have to coordinate our movement so we dance together. We have to listen in order to play beautifully in tune and with a unified sound. We have to listen to each other. We have to cooperate, but we also have to be imaginative. We have to think about how we might move the piece forward with soloists. Many times improvising soloists. There's a lot going on that challenges us. That challenges us as human beings. 

Jayson Davis: I mean anybody can can go, you know, move to L.A. or New York and maybe not have a lot of success but it's very tempting to go to some of the bigger metropolitan areas in the country to try and chase musical scenes when we actually have a really exciting one here in Phoenix. I know playing with the artists who come through, they're always very pleasantly surprised but a little surprised that we don't quite sound like they're anticipating. We don't quite sound like a lot of your prototypical state university big bands, and that's the way I like it.

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Zach Van ArsdalePrevious Multimedia Director

Zach Van Arsdale was the head of the multimedia department from August 2020 to May 2022, shaping design and multimedia storytelling at The State Press in addition to designing article experiences, illustrations and taking photographs. He has previously worked for The Howard Center of Investigative Journalism and on the Carnegie-Knight News21 project: "Unmasking America."

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