April 28, 2008
For eight days in May, a select group of OBU students will get a taste of the life of an international musician.
The Bison Jazz Orchestra will leave Shawnee May 18 for a concert tour in Brazil. It is a milestone event for the group, and offers an array of opportunities for the 19 OBU students.
"It will give them a good idea of what it is like to be a gigging musician," said Dr. Kevin Pruiett, BJO director. "We'll be driving a lot and playing a lot, in front of some large crowds."
Pruiett said the idea for a BJO tour of the South American country surfaced more than two years ago. Trent Argo, OBU's dean of enrollment management, has coordinated OBU recruitment efforts in Brazil for several years. He thought the jazz band could offer the Brazilians a first-hand encounter with OBU students, along with musical entertainment.
"It's the biggest thing this group has ever done," said Pruiett. "To do a major tour on our own allows us to develop a better identity of who we are."
Pruiett has used the tour as a chance to challenge the 20-member group. As they started the 2007-08 year, the group members committed themselves to making the most of the international opportunity Nineteen of the students will make the journey.
"The level of dedication and the level of expertise we've developed thus far has been strong," said Pruiett. "The quality of music we are playing right now is very high."
The BJO will present its final home concert of the 2007-08 year Friday, May 2, in Shawnee's historic Ritz Theatre downtown. It will be a chance to showcase their work before the Brazil tour.
The group, like other OBU musical groups, is not reserved solely for music majors.
"About 45 percent of the students are non-majors," said Pruiett, who noted that several never performed in a jazz group before attending OBU.
"In some cases it is never too late to start," said Pruiett.
The anticipation is growing for the students, who are counting the days until their departure. They will perform at schools, churches a major shopping mall, and for a corporation which is helping to host the tour. Brazil's largest television broadcaster, Globo, is planning a feature on the BJO.
While the OBU students will have the chance to see how another culture responds to an American musical genre, they realize there are other ramifications of their tour.
"From a missions standpoint, and from a recruitment standpoint, this can be a positive experience," said Pruiett.
"Our students know how special it is," he added.