Thursday evening in the Theatre, Doudna Fine Arts Center, the Eastern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble gave their final performance of the semester. Led by Director Sam Fagaly, this ensemble has developed into a group that has a following of admirers.

“Hickory & Twine” by Alan Baylock, featured Steve Kaiser — guitar, Dan Hoffman — piano, and Aaron Eckart — trombone. A great contemporary piece by a creative composer.

“For All We Know” by J. Fred Coots and Sam M. Lewis, arranged by John Clayton was next. This featured Dan Hoffman on piano and Royce Harrington-Turner on Trombone. Also featured was Instructor Nick Tucker on bass. Nick in his first year at EIU and has already been a valued addition to the Eastern Illinois University Jazz faculty and to the various music groups.

“Get Happy” by Harold Arlen, arranged by Chris Merz was — well — a happy number which featured the whole band. The drums were great in this and it seemed it was made for Drummer Kyle Swan who always has a great big smile. It is obvious he enjoys music and his drums.

“Concerto for Clarinet” by Artie Shaw, transcribed by Myles Collins, was a treasure as Dr. Magie Smith was featured on the clarinet. Dr. Smith has been with Eastern Illinois University teaching clarinet for 6 or 7 years and is a professional clarinet performer. She was dressed in black slacks with a red sequined top overlaid with black lace. Dr. Smith also teaches general music, directs the Community Music Program, and is an active performer, clinician, and adjudicator in the Midwest. She has recorded, performed with numerous orchestras, played first clarinet in “La Grande-Duchesse de Grolstein” by Jacques Offenbach’s in France. Yes, Dr. Smith makes a clarinet dance to jazz.

“It’s Only a Paper Moon” by Harold Arlen, arranged by John Berry was an old favorite. It was a somber number featuring David Perez Delgado on saxophone and Michael Eckardt on trumpet. One of my favorites.

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, adapted by Sam Fagaly, featured our very own Central Illinois Elton John — Dr. Bernard Borah. His tie was untied and open, he had a bright red shirt on, he had a great voice, and his piano touch was wonderful. His hair was mussed like Elton’s but could have been a little longer in front. He was a hoot and a delight! Dr. Borah teaches music theory at EIU and is a composer. He has been a regular member of the Sinfonia da Camera of Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony, and the Illinois Symphony. As Elton John — he was well-received by this audience. This selection was dedicated to the memory of David Frank Tanner.

“Lush Life” by Billy Strayhorn had a low and haunting sound. This one featured Aaron Eckart, trombone and Dan Hoffman, piano. These young musicians make music flow so wonderfully.

“Nostalgia in Times Square” by Charles Mingus, arranged by Paul Johnston, was a faculty showcase with this number being arranged by Eastern Illinois University’s own Paul Johnston and featuring Nick Tucker again on Bass. I also enjoyed the piano and trumpet on this one.

The evening ended with “Beijo Inocente” by Matt Harris which featured Dr. Andrew Cheetham on trumpet. Dr. Cheetham is Assistant Professor of Trumpet at EIU and is an arranger, composer, and supporter of new music. He came to EIU from the United States Army where he was often a featured soloist. This was a remarkable performance.

The EIU Jazz Ensemble members are: Saxophones: Jaymee Findlay, Matt Dennison, David Perez Delgado, Rose Cloud, Kim Mathews; Trumpets: Donny de la Rosa, Evan Fowler, Scott Wilkinson, Michael Eckardt; Trombones: Aaron Eckert, Royce Harrington-Turner, Andy Ambrose, Bill Mitchell — bass; Rhythm Section: Dan Hoffmann — piano, Steve Kaiser — guitar; Nick Tucker — bass, and Kyle Swan — drums. Thank you much for loving music and for your gift of entertainment.

Thank you Friends of EIU Jazz for supporting this fine Jazz program and thank you Director Sam Fagaly for another evening of jazz music. I too will miss the seniors but happy for their success at EIU. I look forward to what interesting musicians jazz up on stage next semester.

Carolyn Stephens of Charleston is an arts enthusiast and reviewer-at-large for the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. Contact her at

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