This fall marked the reinstitution of a band class at Southern Virginia. Jazz Ensemble, led by Professor Scott Dransfield with the help of student Patrick Summers, is the first band class available here in several semesters.
Patrick Summers, a music major and a transfer student from Victor Valley Community College, sat down with me to discuss the importance of a jazz class here as well as the importance of offering musicians as many opportunities as possible to develop their talents. Patrick joined his school’s band when he was 12 “after two failed attempts at music in elementary school” and chose the saxophone “because Bill Clinton played the saxophone.”
After this launch into the realm of musicianship, Patrick continued to delve deeper, later attending Victor Valley where he was taught by a professor who was a street-trained musician and who taught him “how to do jazz from a live or die standpoint.” With this new perspective and training, Patrick played professionally for years, including performances on the Discovery Channel, at Anaheim House of Blues in Disneyland, and at the jazz club Hip Kitty in Claremont. Now, Patrick helps lead the class alongside Professor Scott Dransfield, a jazz guitarist (and an awesome one at that, in my humble opinion).
But why the sudden reemergence of saxophones on the Southern Virginia campus? (Aside from the obvious, of course, which is because “all [the students’] wildest dreams will come true,” according to Patrick’s estimation.)
Last semester, Patrick submitted proposals about offering a jazz class to the Provost and several faculty members. He already had the full support of Dr. La Rae Carter, music program coordinator.
“Dr. Carter and I both agree that because of jazz and our performance and experience in it, we’re both better musicians,” he said.
With the support of Dr. Carter, the class was soon open for registration, and not without excitement. The jazz class is enabling students, both instrumentalists and vocalists, to flex their musical muscles. Students in the class begin by learning about the history of jazz, from 1880 to modern jazz, and then work to play and sing in those styles while also working on scales, modes, and forms of jazz improvisation. Last Friday, they showcased their skills in a performance of Christmas music for the entire school in a special Celebration of Christmas.
Not only is this an opportunity for student musicians here to embrace what they love, but it’s an opportunity for growth and development in a field that has an enormous influence on our society. This is one of the focuses of the class.
“I don’t think there’s enough emphasis on going into the world to be examples of the believers in professional settings,” Patrick said. “We need more capable individuals to be a positive influence outside the church. [The] prophets are saying ‘hastening the work,’ [but] that won’t happen if we stay inside the chapel.”
I asked Patrick what it is he thinks makes classes like this possible at Southern Virginia.
“Since the university is liberal arts, and it is a small-scale university with high-quality education, it really does provide opportunity to be innovators, contributors, and creators,” he said.
As a student myself, hearing about classes like Jazz Ensemble and the motivations behind offering them makes me all the more glad that I’ve chosen to attend this university. One of the primary reasons I love Southern Virginia is its size. Not because I’m shy or socially awkward, but because I believe in the genius of small. I believe the genius of small breeds opportunities for students and faculty alike that would not be so readily available at a larger university. The institution of this jazz class is just one example of the university doing all it can to propel students forward in whatever field they chose so that they may use their talents to benefit the world at large — so we may innovate, contribute, and create.
(Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)