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Ensembles jazz it up with alumni

Cyndi Revolinsky , Entertainment Writer
November 7, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

The music department kicked off UW-Green Bay’s first Alumni Reunion Days Nov. 1 with its first Jazz Ensemble concert of the season. Alumni, current students and their families, faculty  and community members gathered in the Weidner Center for Performing Art’s Cofrin Family Hall.

Student Jazz Ensembles I and II shared the stage with local jazz and blues band, Big Mouth and the Power Tool Horns. They frequently play at Jimmy Seas, Celebrate De Pere, Heritage Hill and also for weddings and various private parties.

UWGB alums returned to campus Friday to partake in the Alumni Reunion Days festivities. Lloyd Leuthner, class of 1994, was among them.

“I’m here to celebrate UWGB’s great heritage,” Leuthner said.

After graduating, Leuthner stayed in the Green Bay area and has visited the Weidner Center on many different occasions.

Of the nine members of Big Mouth, five attended UWGB. Nathan Behling, class of ‘84, plays trumpet; Paul Sowinski, class of ‘83, supplies the bass rift; ‘89 UWGB alum Woody Mankowski performs on saxophone and saxophonist and vocalist Mark Jimos and trombonist Bill Denee graduated with the class of ‘91.

Ensemble II took to the stage first. Directed by associate professor Adam Gaines, the ensemble opened with the tune “Stick with It” by Mark Taylor. The set list also included “Spinning Wheel” by David Clayton Thomas, the 1939 jazz classic “Harlem Nocturne” and “You Snooze You Lose,” a Latin jam by Victor Lopez.

Featured soloists were Bobby Magers Jr. on drums, David Blihar on trumpet and Kyle Hall on the saxophone. Associate Professor John Salerno accompanied Ensemble II on the flute during “You Snooze You Lose” because, as Gaines said, sometimes you just need a flute.

Additional performers in Ensemble II were Kyle Henrickson, Alex Munson and Kelton Jennings on the saxophone. In addition to Blihar in the trumpet section were Evan Patton and Brandt Bailey. Patrick Romanek, Joe Russet and Mike Hogan rounded out the trombone section. Additional rhythm was provided by Anne Reis on piano, Matt Hayes and Jon Taber-Kwak on guitar and bassist Gillian Evenoff.

Ensemble I and director  Salerno seized the stage when Ensemble II finished. Making up the saxophone section was Julio Reyes, Cole Watkins, Sam Stranz, Kadin Dever and McKenna VanDerLeest. Greg Koeller, Chase Collins, Tanner Vodvarka and Gatlin Grimm blared on trumpet. Romanek and Russet stayed onstage and were joined in the trombone section by Michael Hogan and Alex Reed. Ensemble II’s pianist Kyle Sweeney, guitarist Matt Hillman, bass player Tony Pesavento and drummer Sean Roherty supplied the rhythms.

Ensemble I began with John Coltrane’s “Blue Train.” Maari Erdman supplied the vocals for “In Walked Bud,” an arrangement by Stranz. Next, audience members were treated to “Widows Walk,” arranged by Dan Gailey. Professor Cheryl Grosso supplied guest percussion and Gaines played guest trumpet for Marcus Miller’s ditty “Hannibal.” Ending the set was Salerno’s “The Lake Effect,” named to honor his family’s hometown of Manitowoc.

Featured soloists for Ensemble I were Stranz, Hillman, Reyes and Roherty.

“This concert is different because we have the guest performers,” said Stranz, senior jazz studies and art management major. “This is the first time I’ve heard Big Mouth play, but they’re pretty big in the area.”

After intermission, ensemble members joined the audience and Salerno introduced the special guests. Big Mouth began playing to thunderous applause. Their set list included covers of Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” Heads bobbed and toes tapped throughout their performance.

“It’s a really good concert at a really great price,” said Brigette Thaxton of Green Bay.

Upcoming events can be found at and tickets can be purchased at 920-465-2400. The music department can also be found on Facebook at UWGB Music.

For more information about Big Mouth and their upcoming events, visit