Kalamazoo, Michigan – with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

How totally satisfying and wonderful! I must be living right or praying real good! Another university town! We were just in Colombia, South Carolina, with a symphony orchestra, that played our symphony program as well as anyone, and now I got to find a way of saying that Kalamazoo peaked right up there with them.

The University of Western Michigan is located in Kalamazoo, and it’s a real wonder that they’ve kept their “big secret” so well; big things come in small packages. This is basically a small university town- one which has high standards for itself, as well as a friendly and comfortable environment. Their football, basketball, or hockey team will make a splash from time to time, but usually they just roll along doing great stuff. There’s a college-to-town relationship that is really, really special. Business and homes themselves are extensions of the campus and the town’s people are cheerleaders, involved in every aspect of the school’s activity.

I personally think that this general atmosphere has contributed to Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s notions of greatness for itself that began with Leta Snow, in 1921.  she started by finding small private performance venues for little chamber groups. And that developed into this: a full symphony orchestra with lots of members who fly or drive in from nearby cities for the performances. Peter Gistelinck is their proud CEO President who spoke of all of the above, as he warmly greeted the Al Jarreau gang at a reception the night before, where we said hello to serious donors and friends.  I praised these donors for their citizenship, because  this is good for the whole community.

My band and the KSO rehearsed the day before the performance day.  This gave Larry Baird (my conductor), the orchestra and my trio a chance to get as coordinated as could be with the arrangements. The results of all the extra effort were tremendous, and it all sounded  amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I can assure you that all of the above contributed to a wonderful performance night. It’s amazingly unusual that the CEO of the symphony orchestra is also a serious jazzer. He was born in Belgium, has worked with Michel LeGrande, and countless jazzers on the continent, and grew up in a home that was often visited by American Jazz GREATS! He and the university have cooperated on not only putting together a jazz studies program, but have grown that into having a recording studio, where they can do anything and everything.

I can assure you that all of the above contributed to a wonderful performance night. Evelyn trilled on the harp at the top of Summertime, and Brad the trombonist took us straight to New Orleans in “Bess you is…” We scrambled to find another encore for this audience that was on their feet, and did an unrehearsed Bach Air on a G String, and then threw in DAYO… Harry Belafonte… Banana Boat song. Thank you, Kalamazoo, for a wonderful visit. I know for certain we’ll do it again.


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