SHERIDAN — Beginning Jan. 30, students and faculty in the Sheridan College music program are giving Sheridan area residents the opportunity to enjoy a free concert every Thursday at lunch in the Edward A. Whitney Academic Center.
The concerts are put on by students in the jazz improvisation class and they are joined by faculty members. The concerts run for an hour, from noon until 1 p.m., in the atrium.
“It brings community members into the school,” said Dr. Michael Flynn, director of bands at Sheridan College. “It is very common for community members to come in and grab lunch and enjoy jazz for an hour.”
The concerts began last year and have been successful for the student musicians who gain some real-life performance experience.
Familiar jazz songs such as “The Girl from Ipanema” and “All of Me” are performed, but since the concerts focus on improv, songs vary with each concert.
“What we wanted to do is give the students a chance to experiment with their new skills in jazz improv in a very low stress environment,” Flynn said.
He added that the group of players ranges from four to eight students and three faculty, depending on schedules. Usually, instruments include trumpet, piano and saxophone though there are also occasions where bass, drums, guitar, trombone and sometimes flute are added to the repertoire.
“A bunch of classes tend to get out at 20 after and they’ll come walking through the atrium and suddenly they sit down and start listening,” said Dr. Chris Erickson, director of music technology at Sheridan College. “Which is great, whenever you can get 19-year-olds to listen to jazz. They don’t get any exposure otherwise.”
“Some people come get coffee and sandwiches,” Flynn added. “They’ve got all these nice couches down there and people turn them around so they are facing the group and just enjoy some really nice music.”
Because many of the student musicians are using their own lunch hours to perform for others, Flynn and Erickson said that Dean Mercedes Aguirre Batty buys pizzas for the students so they are able to grab a bite to eat after the concert before heading to classes.
Flynn said the concerts have been so popular that other departments have been coordinating their events in the atrium.
“There might be massage chair day, or international food lunch, sometimes there are job fairs,” Flynn said. “It is different every time. It is actually so popular that we have to have people sign up for slots, so you never know what you are going to run into.”