BYU-Hawaii students and members of the community spent the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 28 tapping their toes and singing along to freestyle musical numbers performed by the BYUH Street Band in a New Orleans-inspired jazz concert.
Dr. Daniel Henderson, a music professor and the director of the BYUH Street Band, said it is actually a class made up of students from different majors.
“We started last year, which was my first year here. Probably half of [the members] are music majors and the other half are either music minors or just playing for fun.”
Henderson explained how this performance was inspired by New Orleans jazz, and therefore the students performed without any sheet music.
“That’s one of my specialty areas as a performer. [I] basically like deep south African American musical traditions and New Orleans style jazz. I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I can remember.
“That was one of the ideas when they hired me on here–that I could maybe get some sort of band going that doesn’t require a specific instrumentation. It doesn’t matter what instrument you bring, just show up and we’ll make music, unlike a traditional concert band.”
The band performed spiritual songs like “Down by the Riverside,” “Amazing Grace,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” and others like Bruce Springsteen’s “Loose Change.” They asked audience members to sing and clap along. The band’s last performance was their own Hawaiian rendition of “Jingle Bells” titled “Jingle Shells.” Band members played conch shells and a “New Orleans Santa” danced around the stage during the final piece.
Henderson said the band is defined by flexibility, and this semester has been spent helping members of the band feel comfortable without sheet music. “We just take what’s here and make great music. That’s what we’re about. We aren’t a huge music department so we need something a little more flexible. The definition of this band is flexibility.”
Jerimay Basulgan, a freshman from the Philippines studying music and finance, played the tambourine in the band. “This is the first semester that I’ve been able to perform in the choir and this band. It’s so fun. We have a really cool director, Dr. Henderson. He makes every moment enjoyable for us while teaching us at the same time.”
Basulgan said this can be a challenge in class with no music, but it’s never hard to come to class because of the good energy there. “I like the class. It’s one of the classes where I don’t need to be reminded to come, I just come because I like it.
“It’s hard, but I think all of my bandmates were really good. They were able to pick out the notes so fast and we practiced over and over again. We get familiar with the rhythm and the succession of the songs, and that makes it easier to flow.”
Basulgan said she thought the audience enjoyed the performance and had fun singing along to some of the songs. “I hope they enjoyed and appreciate jazz music because it’s a lot of fun and it’s different than classical and theater.”
McKell Fechser, a senior from Utah studying vocal performance, said she came to support some friends and get a taste of home.
“I loved it. I love this style of music,” said Fechser. “My dad always played this style of music around the house when I was a kid so it reminds me of home.”