The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


February 16, 2014

Song sharing: Crowder Jazz Orchestra makes monthly rehearsals public by inviting listeners

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Todd Hastings can play many things on trumpet, from an emotional elegy to a majestic march. The professor of music at Pittsburg State University has a long resume of performances and clinics he's conducted.

But there's nothing like the energy of good music played by a jazz orchestra that fires him up.

Other members of the 18-piece Crowder Jazz Orchestra agree, and Hastings said they are tired of simply rehearsing.

"We don't want to just rehearse every week," Hastings said. "We want to play for people. We need to get the word out that this is a fantastic band playing great music."

The band has started a regular monthly night of jazz music, playing everything from Count Basie and Duke Ellingtion to occasional Big Band era and current selections.

But instead of holding rehearsals in a band room, the orchestra is sharing its practice with the public.

Crowder connection

The band got its start about eight years ago, Hastings said, when he and Robert Ensor, pianist and music instructor at Crowder, talked about it.

Hastings said he was planning on putting together his own big band group and had called Ensor to see if he was available to play. That's when Ensor said that the college had tasked him to put together a community jazz group, something to support the area.

"He asked me if I'd be interested in taking on that project, so we held auditions, and that was our first year," Hastings said.

The band includes many music instructors who teach at high schools and universities. There are also a few students playing in the orchestra.

Members have a breadth of experience, Hastings said, from educational environments to performances with Doc Severinsen and Johnny Mathis.

Each member is volunteering their time, Hastings said.

Some also drive long distances to participate Ñ some from as far away as Pleasonton, Kan., and Fayetteville, Ark.

All for the music, Hastings said.

"It's a great bunch of people, and that's why most of us have been together for the last eight years," Hastings said. "Think about the gas money alone. You don't do that if you're not enthusiastic about it. Not to mention that when we play at the Pass, we don't get paid for that."

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