Milligan Jazz Ensemble rings in 10th year with fall concert

By Doug Janz
Press Tempo Writer

MILLIGAN COLLEGE — A funny thing happened on the way to the fall concert.

Band director Rick Simerly was planning the program for Monday night’s Milligan Jazz Ensemble performance, looking back on past performances, and realized it was the group’s 10th year, an anniversary that’s usually cause for celebration. Not that they’ll do anything different from every other concert.

“We’re not really doing anything special,” Simerly said with a chuckle. “We just tried to put together a good program.”

The concert takes place at Seeger Memorial Chapel at 7:30 and admission is free. The band will do songs from The Count Basie Orchestra, Doc Severinsen and The Tonight Show Band, The Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Woody Herman.

The 22-piece ensemble consists of Milligan students as well as adults and students from throughout the area. It’s become a vital part of the school’s music curriculum.

“The top priority when we started was to have it as a Milligan College ensemble for the students, and then we opened it up so consequently it became a community jazz band,” Simerly said. “That really adds a lot to it.”

“It’s an eclectic group and we’ve had a lot of good musicians come and go over 10 years.”

Only Simerly, associate professor of music at Milligan, has been part of the band from the beginning, while John Hyatt and Dick Davis have been involved since 2005. The group does two concerts a year, choosing numbers from basic big band and jazz libraries.

“We try to find music that’s challenging for them but also fun to listen to, something the crowd would like,” Simerly said. “For this one we have some pretty challenging material. It’s professional big band charts.”

The band will perform an original composition, “Halfway Charlie,” written especially for the Milligan Jazz Ensemble by trumpet player Sloan Hill. In addition, the concert will feature “What Is This Thing Called Love” arranged by Tommy Newsom, “Four” arranged by Willie Maiden, “Nice N’ Easy” arranged by Quincy Jones, the driving Latin number “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie, the jazz standard “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis and the famous “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” by the Count Basie Band.

A highlight of the evening will be a Coltrane ballad selection, “Central Park West,” featuring Davis.

Ensemble soloists who will be featured are: Mark Thie, piano; Davis, Jonathan Thomas, Logan Childress, Ben Tiller and Aaron Hudnall, saxophone; Matt Hall and Mike Boggs, trombone; Sloan Hill, Steven Cooper, Jacob Pitts, Shane Ladd and Nate Andrew, trumpet; Will Scott, guitar; Glenn Diamond, bass; and Eddie Dalton, drums.

For more information, call the Milligan College Music Department at 461-8723 or visit


Posted by on November 22, 2010.