Goshen College’s Lavender Jazz band is set to have their yearly kick-off this Friday at Goshen Theater. The concert will feature the big band, as well as the two bands or “combos” within Lavender Jazz.

The band plays classic jazz hits, as well as swing, blues and music typical of New Orleans and Dixieland. 

“Even though there are over 100 years worth of jazz styles to choose from, the band draws primarily from relatively contemporary styles,” said Greg Smucker, director of Lavender Jazz. “Lavender Jazz will be performing arrangements as a big band, which is 14 to 18 members, and as a small combo, which is three to eight members.”

No matter what they are playing, their excitement and energy always comes through.

“I just love being able to express myself through music,” Isaac Fisher, senior math and secondary education major said. “The freedom that jazz has as opposed to other genres; the freedom to do what you feel, musically. I love it.”

“Everyone is fun, laid-back, and easygoing,” said Phillip Witmer-Rich, a second year music and English double major and member of Lavender Jazz. “It’s easy to get along with people; they’re serious about their work but not hard and authoritative against other people or themselves.”

Currently, the band plays some of their music from sheet music, although their goal is to play almost entirely off of improvisation.

“The centerpiece of jazz is improvisation and collaboration,” said Smucker. “I have found that this group is very good at working together, especially when it comes to working in small combos.”

“Greg’s goal is to get away from sheet music and play more through improvisation,” said Witmer-Rich. “We are trying to implement that more and more every year.”

Despite the difficulty of improvisation, this is exactly what the band members and director enjoy about being a part of Lavender Jazz.

“Bro, jazz makes me feel great,” Birch Baer, senior peace, justice and conflict studies major said. “It feels so good to grow with my fellow classmates; it’s improvising, and never knowing what the next note is. Dang; it’s fun.”

“I look forward to finding a new repertoire that will challenge this group,” said Smucker. “The band has impressed me with the progress they have made in a short amount of time.”