A group at K-State will tour across South America, performing for ambassadors, speaking with local residents and learning the different cultures.
The K-State Jazz Combo, a group of five hand-picked student musicians from the jazz department at K-State, will make the trip from July 3-26 and visit four countries throughout South America.
Wayne Goins, adviser for the group, picked the five students and said the trip will be one of the biggest endeavors of the music department.
“I would say it’s one of the biggest adventures this music department has ever seen,” he said.
Goins, who will accompany the group, said it is a privilege for the students to take the trip and represent K-State’s jazz program.
“I think it is a really rare opportunity for these students to go overseas and spend an extended amount of time representing the university,” he said. “I think, for most of them, whether they realize it or not, it’s probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The members of the group also were excited about the opportunity to learn about other cultures and music genres.
“Most of these cultures actually have had a very drastic impact on American jazz in the last 50 years,” said Matt Leifer, drummer for the group and junior in music. “It will be a good opportunity to go and actually see it from the source.”
To prepare for the trip, the five members will take two courses about the different music and cultures of the South American countries. Goins will teach a course on South American music, and Bradley Shaw, associate professor of modern languages, will teach language, politics and other cultural aspects of South American societies.
“It’s not only an opportunity to learn cool stuff that I’m interested in anyway, but I also think it’s a great opportunity provided by the university,” Leifer said. “We will be able to present ourselves as well-informed citizens not just stupid American tourists.”
Though Goins has traveled across the world with various jazz groups, most of the members have not performed overseas. Phil Ward, brass player and graduate student in music, said he played in Europe for three weeks, but the trip to South America will be a totally different experience for the whole group.
Goins said he also received a large amount of support from several college administration members.
“President Wefald has been our biggest supporter from day one,” he said.
The band will perform at several different venues in Manhattan and Kansas before the trip. The members said they thought they were musically ready for the trip.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a group of students that play on the level that these students do and I felt confident enough to take out of the country,” Goins said.
Although the group has been together since the beginning of last semester, they said they have all performed with each other over the past four or five years.
During this time period, Kelly McCarty, bass player and senior in applied music, said they have learned what to expect from each other.
“The four of us have played so much over the past three or four years that none of us necessarily have to lead on the bandstand just because we know what each other kind of wants,” he said.
Much of the group’s performances focus on the performers’ ability to improvise, said Rick Smith, guitar player and senior in music education.
“It’s kind of a chance to show who I am and show what my influences are, based on what I play,” he said. “But it’s also very technically demanding.”
Leifer said they have practiced long enough to know their respective strengths and know when each member likes to play improvised solos.
“It’s hard to learn but it almost makes your job easier in the long run,” he said. “There’s always new stuff to learn about it, but in a certain sense, we can all just pick up our instruments and play right now.”
Smith said he could not pick a better group of performers and friends to travel with to South America.
“This trip would awesome even if we were going with people we necessarily didn’t like, but we are brothers here,” he said. “If I had to pick people based on personality or based on musicianship, this is the group I would choose.”
This is the last semester in the jazz program for most of the members of the group. Some are graduating, writing their thesis or moving on to the professional world after the trip to South America.
Goins said the members will write an essay and discuss what they learned from the trip on order to fulfill course requirements. After that, some will remain in the program, while others will leave Manhattan and find work in other places.