Academy Jazz Band Features the Armen Donelian Trio in Term-Ending Concert

Beginning with several soft piano riffs, a lone alto saxophone cuts through the air beginning a jazzy solo quickly accompanied by a series of drums and processionion of trumpets and trombones. The instruments increase in volume until the accompaniment drops out, leaving the alto saxophone to end the piece with an improvisational phrase.

The piece, titled “Ana Maria” by Wayne Shorter, was one of six songs performed by the Academy Jazz Band last Friday in Cochran Chapel for their term-ending concert. The concert also included performances by the Armen Donelian Trio, a professional Jazz Group consisting of professional pianist and composer Armen Donelian, bassist Dave Clark, and drummer George Schuller. The trio performed several pieces, including a few original works, after the Jazz Band completed their repertoire.

Donelian said, “I think the performance went very well. I’m very happy with the performance. The students played with a great deal of heart, and as far as our performance, I felt we got better as it went along.”

Before the trio performed, the Academy Jazz Band performed pieces including “Don’t Get Sassy” by Thad Jones arr. Mike Carubia and “Roll ‘em” by Mary Lou Williams, which were conducted by Peter Cirelli, Instructor in Music. “Ana Maria” was conducted by Donelian, who arrived on campus the day before the concert to work and rehearse with the ensemble.

Performer Harry Chanpaiboonrat ’21 said, “Despite [Donelian’s] status as a professional pianist, he was humble in his conducting… [Donelian] pushed us to express ourselves particularly through our group improvisation, which he incorporated during one of the songs in our performance.”

The audience cheered particularly loudly for the student solos that Donelian conducted. The Academy Jazz Band’s pianist, Ivan Betancourt ’22, played several solos, one of which was conducted by Donelian.

Audience member Maggie Kalkstein ’23, said, “I loved the piano solo in the piece Armen conducted. Not only was the music incredible, but I thought it was really cool to see the relationship between the longtime jazz professional and young pianist and see the encouraging and inspired look in both [of] their eyes.”