May 1, 2008
As it prepares for an international tour, Oklahoma Baptist University's Bison Jazz Orchestra will offer the Shawnee community a free concert in a historic downtown setting on Friday, May 2.
The BJO concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the historic Ritz Theatre, 10 West Main Street.
"Over the past couple of years, we have had the opportunity to perform the year's final concert at the Ritz, and we have absolutely loved it," said Dr. Kevin Pruiett, BJO director and associate professor of music at OBU. "It is a great place to perform."
The Ritz Theatre, built as a dry goods store around 1899, was the oldest and longest running family-owned and operated movie theater in the state of Oklahoma when it closed in 1988. In recent years, the Society for Revitalization of Downtown Shawnee has opened it as a performance venue.
"This year's concert will display a wide selection of big band sounds," said Pruiett. "The pieces range from music of the swing band era to contemporary big band pieces that will be entertaining for the entire family.
"We will be playing music made famous by Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Charles Mingus, and Pat Metheny. Overall, it will be a very eclectic blend of big band genres," he said.
An auditioned 20-piece jazz ensemble, the BJO includes students who are pursuing degrees in a variety of academic disciplines. Current members include students majoring in music, cross-cultural ministry, children's ministry, journalism, biology, philosophy, and applied ministry.
The May 2 concert will feature student vocalist Micah McCaslin, a sophomore from Midwest City, on a number of songs including the jazz standard "Just Friends," as well as "Old Man of the Mountain," a Cab Calloway number from a classic Betty Boop cartoon.
"Singing in front of the BJO on so many classic songs makes you feel like Ella Fitzgerald," said McCaslin. "It is an amazing feeling."
Pianist Amanda Spicer, a senior from Oklahoma City, will be a featured on Pat Metheny's ballad "Letter from Home," and on "I Remember Stan," a Lennie Niehaus arrangement dedicated to bandleader and pianist Stan Kenton.
The concert also will showcase trumpet soloists Kade Goforth, a freshman from Tulsa; Brandon Crnkovic, a junior from Tecumseh; and John Oxford, a junior from Golden, Colo. Also featured are saxophonist Jordan Myers, a sophomore from Perkins, pianist Caitlyn Dacus, a freshman from Overland Park, Kan.; trombonist David Giaco, a sophomore from St. Charles, Mo.; drummer Patrick Womack, a sophomore from Oklahoma City; and guitarist Steven Soward, a senior from Grand Prairie, Texas.
During the concert, the BJO Outstanding Jazz Musician Award will be given to the orchestra member who has "rendered the most outstanding service to the organization during the year." The award, voted on by the members of the ensemble, is the highest honor given to a jazz musician on the OBU campus.
After OBU's Spring Commencement on May 17, the BJO will travel to Vitoria and Sao Paolo, Brazil, for a ten-day tour.
"Our students will get to experience what it is like to be a gigging musician," said Pruiett. "We will be doing a lot of performing and a lot of traveling."