Tuesday, January 9th will be a night of jazz at the Soo Theatre! The concert is at 7pm and is a part of our “Raise the Roof” Concert Series. Opening the night will be the Cedarville Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Alan Jacobus, followed by the featured group, the MTU Jazz Lab Band, under the direction of Mike Irish.
Cedarville Jazz Band and Alan Jacobus
Alan Jacobus has been teaching for 41 years, the last 20 of those being at Les Cheneaux Community Schools (Cedarville). He holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Kentucky and has also done graduate work at Western Michigan University, Central Michigan University, and Ball State University. Jacobus is no stranger to the Soo Theatre; most recently, he was the orchestra conductor for the 2016 production of The Music Man, but has conducted during the summer numerous times over the years.
Jacobus leads and directs the Cedarville Jazz Band, currently in its 8th year of existence, which is part of the Zero Hour program at Cedarville High School. The Zero Hour program includes Jazz Band (2 days per week), Vocal Ensemble (two days per week), and Percussion Ensemble (one day a week). Because there is not room in the regular school day for these classes, they are scheduled to start at 7:15 a.m. and students come before school starts to rehearse. The classes are set up on alternating days, and several students participate in more than one Zero Hour group. “Over 50% of our regular band students participate in one or more of the Zero Hour ensembles,” says Jacobus. Any students currently in the Cedarville Band program (in grades 8-12) can be a member of any of the Zero Hour Ensembles.
The Jazz Band has participated several times in the Northern Michigan University Jazz Festival. The band also holds an annual fundraising concert (Jazz in December) which is a sell-out performance every year. The proceeds of their annual fundraising concert are used to fund the Zero Hour program.
MTU Jazz Lab Band and Mike Irish
The MTU Jazz Lab Band, under the direction of Mike Irish, will be gracing our stage as part of their annual winter break tour. MTU has been touring the Jazz Lab Band since 1968! Originally a spring break tour, they have changed to touring the last week of their winter break from classes. They used to take their own vehicles, eventually moved to university vans, and now charter a bus since the weather can be challenging in January.
The MTU Jazz Lab Band has toured all over the midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio), has played at major regional jazz festivals, and in the 80’s, got to tour Jamaica on 3 occasions.
The purpose of the tour is two-fold. First, the students are ambassadors for MTU. They connect well with other students and the public to promote the university. Second, the tour allows students to focus on music and communicating with a variety of audiences. MTU does not offer a music degree. They do, however, have many students that are very talented musicians. This tour is an opportunity for the students to experience the life of a road musician for a week, while connecting with people in other communities through music.
“They are immersed for 5 days. These kids are VERY talented musicians who happen to have chosen fields other than music as their professions. The tour allows them to hone this craft to their highest degree. It is an exhausting, but very satisfying venture. They truly are road warriors,” says Irish.
As part of their tour, they will be performing at local schools by day and historic UP theatres by night. Their tour will start with the Soo Theatre on Tuesday evening. Wednesday, they will be at Manistique HS during the day and then an evening community concert at the Crystal Theatre in Crystal Falls. Thursday is a busy day with high school concerts in Iron River and Watersmeet, and an evening concert at the Ironwood Theatre in Ironwood. On Friday, they will do a morning program at Ewen/Trout Creek HS, and then a joint school and community concert at the Ontonagon Theatre in Ontonagon. By 5pm on Friday they will be home with all of their gear stowed. The kids then get 3 days off before the second semester starts!
When asked where the idea came from to tour historic theatres in the UP, Irish said, “Personally, I have wanted to do an “historic theatre” tour for years. Since I will be retiring in April 2018, this was my last chance. I absolutely LOVE the grand old theatres that are being brought back to life. Their stories are living history of the times and people of each unique area. People in each of the communities take such GREAT pride in their unique histories and each venue is a gem in its own way. Among the uninitiated, the U.P. might seem to be culturally barren – but, nothing could be further from the truth. These grand old ladies are living proof of our rich heritage.”
Mike Irish is the Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Tech University and has a broad background in Jazz Studies as both an educator and performer. He holds a B.M.E. from Northern Michigan University and an M.M.E. from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a thesis in Jazz Studies. Prior to his appointment at Michigan Tech, Mr. Irish taught in the Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools and for eight years was the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
As a jazz guitarist, Mr. Irish has performed with Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Dizzy Gillespie, Rob McConnell, Don Ellis, Steve Houghton, and Frank Mantooth, among others. In the area of popular music, he has worked with Bob Hope, Robert Goulet, Rich Little, Carol Lawrence, and Rodney Dangerfield.
Mr. Irish received the Michigan Tech Distinguished Teacher Award for senior faculty in 2001. He is also a jazz adjudicator/clinician and composes and arranges for both large and small jazz ensembles, having studied with Frank Mantooth, Matt Harris and Dick Grove. His publications are available through Really Good Music (www.reallygoodmusic.com). He is a longtime member of the International Association of Jazz Educators and in 1985 received the first National Band Association Outstanding Jazz Educator Award. In 1992, he received one of six National Merit Awards from the American College Theater Festival for his 25 original compositions for the blues musical, The Blue Psalms. Two of his arrangements are featured on the latest MTU jazz CD entitled Tech Jazz, and he contributed 7 of his original compositions to the Jaztec CD, Watch Your Step. In 2004, the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra premiered his 7-part jazz suite “Scenes From The Keweenaw” assisted by the Jazz Lab Band. In 2005, he collaborated with playwright M.C. Friedrich to produce the Dead Man’s Jazz Club, an original play that which featured 7 of his original compositions for jazz combo. Mr. Irish currently has 4 solo jazz guitar CD’s to his credit: Northern Standard Time, Last Month Of The Year, Full Bloom, and By Request.
Tuesday, January 9, 7:00 pm, Soo Theatre
Tickets available at the door, $10 adults, $5 students
There’s something for everyone at the Soo Theatre.