University of New Orleans Jazz Studies Students, Faculty and Alumni Return From Russia
A small fleet of University of New Orleans students, faculty and alumni recently returned from a 10-day trip to Moscow, where they provided music for Russia's top star search television program and played a concert for the U.S. Ambassador and his guests.
"We did play a really amazing concert at the house of the U.S. Ambassador – it was called Spaso House – for about 400," said UNO Al Beletto Professor of Jazz Studies Ed Petersen. "That was wonderful."
Five saxophones, three trombones, four trumpets, one pianist, one bass player, one drummer and two vocalists from the UNO greater community joined Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and UNO Professor of Professional Practice Irvin Mayfield, Jr. on the trip. The musicians travelled to Moscow on a 9-day stint of "nearly constant filming and rehearsing" for a star search program on Kultura TV that loosely approximates American Idol, with various contestants competing to be named the nation's top jazz musician, said Petersen, who is a Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist and associate chair of the UNO Department of Music. They travelled with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and served as the show's house band, with Mayfield conducting and performing on trumpet.
"It was an opportunity to get students, UNO faculty and ringer musicians out there," said Petersen, who said the group worked around the clock and had little time for tourism. "It was quite a bit of work."
Those who travelled to Russia with Petersen include: recent UNO Master of Music alumnus and jazz saxophonist Matt Schilling, recent UNO graduate and baritone saxophone Oliver Bonie, current Master of Music student and tenor saxophone James Partridge, graduate assistant and jazz trombonist Emily Fredrickson, undergraduate alumnus and lead trombonist Michael Watson; alumnus and trombonist David Harris; UNO Master of Music alumnus and trumpeter Ashlin Parker; alumnus and trumpeter Eric Lucero; current undergraduate student and trumpeter Glen Hall; recent graduate Jasen Weaver on bass and recent UNO graduate and jazz vocalist Sasha Masakowski .
The musicians were on stage primarily in a supportive role, although they did have a few opportunities for musical solos, said Petersen. Behind the scenes, they met prospective students from Russia who showed interest in attending UNO's graduate program in jazz studies.
Musicians also enjoyed performing for U.S. Ambassador Michael McFauland approximately 400 guests at Spaso House, a luxe Neoclassical Revival building in Moscow built in 1913 as the mansion of the textile industrialist Nikolay Vtorov. The outdoor concert with full orchestra allowed the musicians to play the way they truly love to play, Petersen said.
The musicians expect to return to Russia for more tapings, Petersen said. Already, Kultura TV has taped three rounds of the show, which in its previous iteration centered around ballet and was the top televised show in the nation, Peter said. Each show demands four to five hours on set, with performances shot in one take, alongside choreographed dance performances by members of the Bolshoi Ballet.
"It was really interesting and we really met a whole lot of people," said Petersen, who is known in the jazz community by the nickname, Sweetbread.