Goshen College’s jazz band, Lavender Jazz, has undergone a change this semester ahead of the band’s next performance on April 6. Greg Smucker ‘82 has stepped in as guest conductor, guiding the band in preparation.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Smucker had an affinity for music from an early age.
Even before his great-grandmother gave him a trumpet she had purchased at an auction, Smucker said, “I had decided I would be a trumpeter when I grew up.”
Smucker played in school bands all throughout high school. He was selected to attend an alternative high school for students interested in various forms of the performing arts. After high school, Smucker knew he wanted to pursue playing jazz music and chose to attend Goshen College.
During his time at GC, Smucker was recruited by Phil Clemens, a GC professor at the time, to be involved in the newly formed jazz band on campus.
“Goshen College offered me a wide range of musical experiences,” said Smucker.
One of his most influential experiences at GC was his mentorship under Clemens, where Smucker prepared to direct the jazz band as a senior while Clemens took a sabbatical.
“Since college, music has been an avocation,” Smucker said. “Along with performing and composing, teaching is an important creative outlet for me.”
Smucker has been able to take advantage of that creative outlet as he aids the jazz band in preparing for their upcoming concert.
Members of the jazz band enjoy Smucker’s style of teaching.
“Our rehearsals are going well,” said Isaac Godshalk, a senior trumpet player in the jazz band. “I appreciate the change of conducting and teaching that [Smucker] brings to the band.”
One adjustment Smucker has made is a reduction in the number of microphones on stage during performances.
Rather than each member of the band having their own microphone, the goal is to have only a select few mics on stage at any one time.
Smucker only uses microphones when necessary to amplify the band’s sound. This is in order to teach the students to learn how to balance their sound among themselves without the aid of a sound engineer.
“We generate plenty of sound,” said Smucker. “I am sure we will be heard.”
Getting the band to a point where they can communicate with minimal conducting is one of Smucker’s secondary goals ahead of the April 6 performance.
“They are doing a great job making this shift,” said Smucker. “Jazz is often about passing the baton. Learning when to lead and when to follow are some of the keys to developing a good ensemble.”
Alongside Smucker, there is a large amount of student leadership this semester in the form of four seniors: Isaac Godshalk, Sarah Shoue, Julian Harnish and Reid Wegrecki.
During the April 6 performance, each senior will be featured with their respective solo pieces.
“I’m looking forward to playing with the band,” Godshalk said. “It gives me the chance to lead the ensemble and get a voice in how it should sound.”