Clark College’s Sixth Annual Big Band Bash

The VanPort Jazz Ensemble gives attendees a sneak peak of their performance during a soundcheck (Credit: Isaac Califf)

The mood was light in Gaiser Hall’s Student Center on June 10. An audience that looked predominately age sixty and up listened to a jazz ensemble playing an upbeat piece with plenty of solos. Several little girls danced in the side aisles.

“If you like the sound of the Big Band Era, you’ll love this concert,” Richard Inouye, Clark College’s Director of Bands, had said in a press release prior to the Sixth Annual Big Band Bash.

The event certainly lived up to Inouye’s prediction. Featuring the Clark College Jazz Ensemble, the Clackamas Community College Jazz Ensemble, and the VanPort Jazz Ensemble, the Big Band Bash drew nearly a hundred people to the performance.

In addition to being an entertaining concert, the Big Band Bash also served as the final exam for a jazz ensemble class in the Clark College Music Department.

About 50 musicians participated across the three ensembles, with content ranging from mellow, slower songs to upbeat, solo-rich jazz pieces that kept the audience clapping.

The VanPort Jazz Ensemble played first — it was the most well known ensemble performing. Unlike the other two ensembles, VanPort consisted entirely of adult musicians. It had a professional air, with performers dressed more formally than those in the other ensembles. This added to the diversity of the night.

Next up, the Clackamas Community College Jazz Ensemble provided an entertaining performance. Conducted by Lars Campbell, a row of Clackamas saxophone players stood during a chorus, enlivening the audience.

Clark College’s Jazz Ensemble was the closing act. Conducted by Richard Inouye, the performance featured the most soloists out of the three ensembles. The audience lit up substantially to the Clark ensemble. At the end of the performance, the ensemble received a short standing ovation.

Some of the Clark College Jazz Ensemble perform at the Big Band Bash (Credit: Isaac Califf)

The Clark College’s ensemble, while featuring an orchestra-sized number of performers, only had two women on stage. This was in contrast to the other two ensembles, which had a more diverse demographic.

The audience, while primarily of a senior age, did include a younger group as well: many of those youngsters were children who came with their grandparents; others were Clark students, including members of the Clark College Music Department.

While some attended the concert to support friends or family, others, as in the case of Milton Seeley, did not.

“I don’t know anybody [at the event],” said Seeley. “I came ‘cause I like jazz music.”

VanPort Jazz guitarist Sam Jeong and Bassist Henry Hohn at the Big Band Bash (Credit: Isaac Califf)

The Big Band Bash also hosted a fundraiser by the college’s music department to collect donations for music scholarships at Clark, explained Kyle Seitz, a volunteer at the event.

Seitz ran the donations table, answering any questions attendees might have and watching one of the donations boxes.

Shelly Williams, the Clark College Music Department’s Program Coordinator, explained that while the college pays for basic needs, such as staff salaries and operating costs, very little is available for music scholarships.

“So the only way for us to get that kind of money is to get donations of all flavors and kinds,” said Williams. “Any money we collect in donations at our concerts, we put straight into scholarship funds, so it’s fed directly to our students.”

Though the concert’s goal was to feature Clark student jazz musicians, Williams said the other bands were invited to the Bash to widen the publicity and create a larger following for all the ensembles.

“[The Big Band Bash is] just a name Richard [Inouye] developed because it allows for some collaboration,” said Williams. “So he always invites one or two other bands to join our Clark band to kind of make a big, a fun thing out of it, instead [of just our band].

As far as the audience was concerned, Williams seemed pleased.

“That was a nice turnout actually, and they were pretty stable with staying by,” said Williams.

Publicity was important for the concert to happen, she said, and significant work went into making sure people knew about the Big Band Bash. This was especially true for the older demographic, which made up the majority of the audience.

Williams explained that it was important to ensure that the correct mediums were reached to attract this audience.

“I sent press releases all over the place and we got picked up by a couple of newspapers,” said Williams. It helps us that it’s in the Columbian and that it says something. Because that age group is still reading the newspaper…”