Deep in the bowels of Grant Hall 113 practices a small but mighty group of musicians. The Centre Jazz Ensemble rehearses on Wednesday afternoons. Due to such a large number of musicians having graduated, the group only has seven members this semester.

“It’s a rebuilding year,” Director of Centre Jazz and saxophone and clarinet instructor, Doug Drewek said. “We lost a lot of players, so we’re starting from the ground up.”
However, this isn’t stopping the group from practicing their instruments, which include a piano, two alto saxophones, a trombone, a tuba, drums, and an electric guitar.

The pieces the group will be performing are more attuned to the ability of a smaller group though still challenge them.

“We can’t do a standard repertoire,” Drewek said. “We have to be creative.”

This creativeness takes the form of improvisation. During rehearsal, the group played a call and response with Drewek on alto saxophone while sophomore Taylor Acree provideed a steady beat on the drums.

They practiced listening to each other to get a feel for how to play.

Studying jazz rhythms and scales typically used in jazz made up an important component of rehearsal as the members are encouraged by Drewek to create their own licks.

“My approach is a garage band style. It’s really collaborative. We have such a variety of instruments. There’s a wide range of skill level and backgrounds.”

Most of the musicians in the group have not played jazz music before.

“I took piano lessons for ten years,” junior Katie Coldiron said. “I’ve been devoting time to other things, but the opportunity came about to join [the Jazz Ensemble].”

Drewek does not mind all the differences in ability between the musicians.

“I enjoy challenging students,” Drewek said. “It’s like I’ve got a box of Legos I’m handing them.”

Drewek himself came to Kentucky in 2003 to pursue his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Kentucky. He then met Vince Dimartino who hired him to teach saxophone and clarinet at Centre College, and later was asked to direct Centre Jazz.

For the Family Weekend concert, the ensemble used jazz licks that they crafted to create their piece.

Centre Jazz is having a Jazz Café Dec. 1 at the Combs Warehouse, an event which has seen increasing popularity in the past few years. The experience is meant to mimic a real club style event.

“It keeps growing every year,” Drewek said. “It’s real casual and we’ll have cookies and other things.”

Drewek hopes to draw people into the casual setting for the Café, and let people filter in and out while listening to the jazz music by the ensemble.

“Jazz concerts have become more and more stuffy,” Drewek said.

He hopes to change the way people think about jazz concerts and music.

Drewek also welcomes musicians from all backgrounds and skill levels to join the Jazz Ensemble, no jazz experience necessary.

“Musicians tend to work well together,” Drewek said. “Music can help inspire creativity. I encourage anybody with any instrument to join.”

First-year student Anthony Herl has never played jazz before, but wanted to give it a try. He plays the electric guitar.

“I’ve always liked jazz music,” Herl said. “It’ll make any musician a better player.”

Drewek relates playing music in a small ensemble to doing better in the classroom as well, since students learn to play in front of crowds, they feel more at ease giving a class presentation.

“Music was an opportunity to expand horizons,” Drewek said. “It’s an opportunity for growth. We’re turning weaknesses into strengths.

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