Gather up your lawn chairs, a blanket to sit on and a thermos of iced tea then head to the Port Plaza for a free, soul-satisfying concert performed by the South Puget Sound Community College summer jazz ensemble this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Fourteen musicians, along with their talented teacher Ritchie Lopez, are ready to delight you with a program of favorite tunes. The group has been practicing regularly to perfect their swing and Latin tunes.
This is the first time the jazz class has assembled in the summer. Usually, Lopez meets with students during the regular school year. When spring quarter was coming to a close, a group of students wanted to keep the energy moving through the summer. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, they’ve been reading and interpreting big band charts, learning chord progressions and practicing jazz improvisation. Many styles of jazz are covered including funk and fusion. “The students are hungry to get to class,” said Lopez in appreciation of the students.
Initially the SPSCC jazz ensemble was available only to enrolled students but has recently expanded to include Evergreen students and other members of the community. Lopez said he is thankful for the participation of more experienced musicians who often bring levels of perseverance, dedication and devotion that have matured over the years. This is the chance to dust off their instruments and get back to a first love – music. New students are welcome, but you do need to have some musical background.
During Lopez’s class there are opportunities not only to play, but also to learn theory, write music and participate in all aspects of putting together a concert, including promoting the event. He explains, “The SPSCC environment is a perfect place to explore all this.” Traditional jazz instruments include the trumpet, sax, trombone, guitar, bass, drums and piano. At various times the students have added a sousaphone, cello, flute, clarinet, vibraphone, oboe, and bassoon, depending on the make-up of the enrolled students.
Lopez’s life has been focused on studying, playing and teaching music. At an early age he started on the piano and later added the trombone. He also plays the alto flute and sousaphone. Ritchie studied and majored in music in college and through his career has played with world-class musicians and artists, especially while living in Las Vegas. His joy comes from teaching and watching students learn, stretch and grow. He also writes music. “Music has taken me around the world,” said Lopez, who has now settled in Olympia.
Heather Wood will be playing her guitar at the concert. She expressed her enthusiasm for the class. “I have been playing and performing for over 25 years, although mostly stagnate. With this community of players, and the high level of musicianship between the professors, I have gained new musical abilities and understandings that are visible in my improvisational work. I am finally finding my musical voice in a welcoming, and warm class environment.”
Tom Trompeter, a sax player, works in a non-musical profession. “It’s an outlet for the other part of my brain,” he said of participating in the ensemble. Piano player Judy Lindlauf joined the class five quarters ago. She has practiced and studied diligently and recently wrote, arranged and performed an original piece.
Weather forecasts predict Saturday to be the ultimate summer day – copious amounts of heat and sunshine. Top off your day by coming to downtown Olympia and giving your spirits a lift. Let the SPSCC Jazz Ensemble entertain you. I got a sneak preview at one of their recent classes. I can hardly wait. My lawn chair is already in the car. My sunglasses are handy and the iced tea is in the cooler. The downbeat is at 6:00 p.m. See you there.