Jazz is alive at Aquinas College


The Aquinas College Jazz Band performs at the Moose

Story by Mason Glanville, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Cole Eidt

The Aquinas College Jazz Band performed at their Jazz Jam concert in The Moose during the late evening of Oct. 10th. The musicians exemplified what it means to make real music.

Even though the weather outside was rainy and cold, the environment inside The Moose was intimate, warm, and very exciting. From the stage, 11 musicians put out a number of songs in the “little big band style,” including titles such as “So What” and “Out of Nowhere” by composer Mark Taylor. The audience may have been modest, but all thirty attending could be seen tapping their toes or nodding their heads to the music; the setting was electric, and the vibe — harmonious.

The Jazz Band is led by Dr. Paul Brewer, who tells that there are many more performances to come from the band this year. In fact, the Jazz Jam concert was only intended as a preview to the ensemble’s next event, the International Jazz Cafe, which will occur in the Donnelly Center on Tuesday Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. At this free event, students are invited to sit at tables, enjoy hot drinks and snacks, chat with friends, and most importantly, listen to live jazz from the AQ Jazz Band.

The cafe style performance on Nov. 6 is intended to recall the roots of jazz and reveal it in the shape it takes naturally in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York (the cities in which the genre evolved from the late 19th century until it became fully developed throughout the 1920s and ‘30s).

Brewer tells that the Cafe is in response to a problem he and department chairperson Barbara McCargar saw in the past concert-style setting of the band (before, AQ jazz concerts took place in Kretschmer Recital Hall). Brewer says that “jazz does fine in the concert setting, but that’s not how it came into existence.” It developed in “intimate settings like nightclubs and offered a communal experience.” The hope is that the International Jazz Cafe will provide this environment and become a more authentic jazz experience for audience and players alike.

Jazz at Aquinas has a rich history. Dr. Brewer, current Director of Instrumental Music, took the reins in 1999 after the unexpected death of his predecessor, “dynastic” band director Dr. Bruce Early. Dr. Early had a long relationship with the college and was vital in growing the jazz program. He initialized the highly successful AQ Jazz Camp, which attracts young musicians and skilled teachers from all over the region every June. Dr. Brewer is thrilled to carry on and grow Early’s legacy.

In addition to Jazz Jam, the International Jazz Cafe, and Jazz Camp, the band has a number of other functions during the year. Brewer says that, because of the versatile nature of jazz in society today, the band is called on to play at all kinds of college-related events and occasions that might require music, such as events for the president’s and provost’s offices. They also appear at the Hastings Jazz Festival in April, and at other Music Department occasions throughout the year.

As far as musical art forms go, jazz must be one of the most eccentric and least approachable. The technical skills required to play well preclude or deter many musicians from the art. In addition, the rehearsal time put into every performance make each one a true labor of love.

It is a true privilege for Aquinas College to say that enough stars have aligned to give our community the right staff, students and environment to make great jazz happen here. If you are interested in music, go out and take advantage of this tremendous cultural opportunity that exists right here on campus.

And of course, if you play an instrument and are interested in joining jazz band, all you need to do is reach out to Dr. Brewer.

The Aquinas College Music Department calendar can be found throughout campus or online at

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