Spring 2011 Issue
Keeping jazz alive and thriving in Southeast Idaho is among the notable tasks juggled by Patrick Brooks, Idaho State University director of bands.
Offering all of Southeast Idaho the opportunity to hear great music, the ISU Jazz Bands perform in the classy splendor of the Stephens Performing Arts Center's Jensen Grand Concert Hall and in the upstairs loft at the Portneuf Valley Brewery, built in a formerly abandoned warehouse on First Avenue in Pocatello.
Brooks also organizes the ISU Jazz Festival annually, which attracts high school students from Burley to Ashton to gather to play homage to, and just play, jazz. University and prep musicians alike get to rub elbows and trade notes with professional jazz greats at the festival.
Dr. Patrick Brooks enjoys helping his students bring jazz to the community.
Photos by ISU Photographic Services/Julie Hillebrant
"Jazz speaks to musicians' creative sides in unique and exciting ways," said Brooks, "Jazz is here to stay."
He said he loves jazz styles ranging from traditional big band jazz from the early 1900s to "jazz composed last year" - and he shares that passion.
Turnout for the Jazz Bands I and II spring and fall semester concerts remains consistently good. And, in the last several years, these bands have stepped out on the town in Pocatello, too. The groups play three times during the academic year at the Portneuf Valley Brewery.
"It's always fun to play at the brewery," said Patrick Nelson, a sophomore from Pocatello who plays bass in both Jazz Band I and II. "It's relaxed and more casual, and the whole group builds off the energy."
Nelson's band mate, pianist Derek Schaible said there are other benefits playing at brewery.
"Sometimes we prepare for our concerts by playing at the Brewery," Schaible said. "It's like a live rehearsal, but we also get to play more tunes."
The Jazz Bands have been well received off-campus.
"We've had very good audiences and good turnout upstairs in the loft," Brooks said. "It is a great environment to hear jazz. I thought it might be way too loud and not good for acoustics, but it has turned out to be a great, natural room to hear our jazz bands. The music and atmosphere are good."
This latter sentiment is also true of the ISU Jazz Festival, which brings jazz greats to Pocatello to work with university and prep students and to perform in concert. The 24th annual festival was held in February and featured baritone saxophonist and flutist Denis DiBlasio, 14 prep bands from throughout Southeast Idaho, and ISU music students.
"With the budget cuts, the ISU Jazz Festival has been pared down, but this year's festival was still filled with educational and performance activities," Brooks said. "Denis is an especially effective clinician, and he is just an effusive, energetic person. A number of area bandleaders commented on how much they and their students enjoyed him. One of the things they especially like about Denis is that he works so well with students."
The finale of the festival features the guest clinician in concert playing with the ISU Jazz Band I.
"When we have guests artists, it is so cool to see ISU students rise to the occasion and see them exceed what they previously thought they were capable of," Brooks said.
Brooks' bassist, Nelson, expressed his appreciation about having the opportunity to interact with BiBlasio.
"I filled in playing on bass and playing show pieces with him, " Nelson said. "It was great getting up there with a jazz great and playing with him, but he also had a lot of great information on how we can improve."
Playing jazz and improving are two keystones of the ISU music department's efforts of teaching and promoting jazz.
"In the beginning, I didn't like jazz much," said Schaible, a classically trained pianist. "But once I learned how to do it, I really loved the improvising."
That love and improvising will continue to emanate from Southeast Idaho from variety of sources and venues, with an assist from Brooks and the ISU music program.