Student musicians interested in both honing their craft and learning a unique style of music have a great opportunity in the two unit MUP 323: Latin Jazz Ensemble course taught by Dyne Eifertsen.
“Latin Jazz is unlike any other course that is offered here at ARC,” said Ian Ellis, who plays trombone for the ensemble. “It’s more about feeling and soul than it is about technical playing, but at the same time you have to be able to play at a high technical level.”
Influenced by the Latin jazz ensemble that was offered at Sacramento State University, American River College music department head Dyne Eifertsen started the group in 2007.
“As I heard the Latin jazz ensemble, then directed by Steve Roche, we shared some music and started the Latin jazz group here,” said Eifertsen.
The main intention of the course is to serve as an entry point for students to start getting used to Latin jazz so they can gain the skills needed to play in ensembles at a university.
“Oftentimes I will pick tunes that are not basic, but easier, so that jazz musicians that maybe are not used to latin music can at least understand the format of the charts,” said Eifertsen.
The skill levels between the students in the class vary, which leads to its unique learning environment.
Commercial music major Nick Stinson enjoys playing with the skilled musicians that the class attracts.
“There are a lot of trained people already in the class, so it’s a very different vibe when compared to high school,” Stinson said. “They do not have to be glued to [reading] their music. They are able to create their own unique sound and paint a picture with the music.”
Enrollment has been has been relatively high since the course was first offered.
Although having previous experience on an instrument is highly encouraged, it is not a requirement, and anyone with a willingness to learn will be taught an instrument, be it a horn or percussion.
The course serves as an alternative to more traditional music styles, such as symphonic band or studio jazz, and fulfills both elective requirements.
The ensemble performs several concerts as well as some outside gigs throughout the semester, often performing in tandem with the studio jazz ensemble, with many students taking both courses.