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Department of Performing Arts Presents 20th Annual Jazz Extravaganza

Drexel University Jazz Orchestra

Drexel University Jazz Orchestra

April 4, 2019

In just two weeks, the Drexel University Department of Performing Arts will host its 20th Annual Jazz Extravaganza. The evening will feature the department’s Jazz Orchestra and Jazztet, led by director Brent White, who took the role in the Fall, with guest musicians from the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. In honor of the 20th performance, Dr. George L. Starks Jr., former conductor of the Drexel Jazz Orchestra and Jazztet and founder of the the first annual Jazz Extravaganza, will re-join the orchestra as guest conductor and guest artist, along with guest artist Joseph Jennings, former director of the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble, whose all-female roster participated in the first fifteen years of the Jazz Extravaganza.

Dr. Starks first saw the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble perform in 1994 when he worked at the college during a brief leave-of-absence from Drexel. Upon his return to campus, Dr. Starks knew he had to bring the group to Philadelphia. In a recent interview, Starks remarked that back then, an all-female jazz ensemble was “something unusual for the time,” when women were rarely seen in the male-dominated world of jazz. Brent White, current director of the Jazz Orchestra, was also present at the interview and added, “Over the years women’s roles in jazz changed dramatically. [Back in the day] you’d never see a woman play a brass instrument, now it’s a thing of the past.” It made sense for Dr. Starks to bring the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble to campus back in the ‘90s as Drexel’s own Jazz Orchestra had some key female players, a fact that has not changed today. White proudly remarked that a majority of the current Jazz Orchestra Ensemble members are women. After Jennings left Spelman, Starks found new partnership with the Howard University Jazz Orchestra and continued the tradition of bringing unique jazz-related guests to campus each Spring. Overall, Starks saw the Jazz Extravaganza as a collaborative opportunity for students to continue their study of jazz.

The Jazz Extravaganza not only serves as a key role in the development of student’s lives, it also plays an influential role in serving the Greater Philadelphia community. Starks remarked that he looks at the Extravaganza as a community service. “Each year we fill the Mandell with a wide range of people who don’t usually come to campus,” Sparks noted. He explains that the Extravaganza brings in people of all ages, colors, and backgrounds, and truly creates a diverse experience on Drexel’s campus for folks who may not have the chance to enjoy this artform otherwise.

The 20th Annual Jazz Extravaganza will be held in the Mandell Theater on Friday, April 12 at 7:00 pm and is free and open to public. For more information about the event, please visit the Department of Performing Arts website or call the Department of Performing arts at (215) 895 2451.


About the Drexel University Jazz Orchestra and Jazztet

The Drexel University Instrumental Jazz Ensembles consist of three groups: the Jazz Orchestra, the Jazztet and the Saxtet. Acceptance into all three groups is by audition only. Trumpeters, trombonists, saxophonists, pianists, bassists, guitarists, drummers, vocalists, and other musicians who have sufficient technical proficiency are welcome to audition. The ability to improvise is a plus, but not a necessity The Jazz Orchestra performs at least one time per quarter on regularly scheduled concerts and sometimes give additional performance both on and off campus. The Jazztet is a small group ranging in size from five to eight musicians. This ensemble performs small group masterpieces such as literature associated with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane, and others. The Saxtet is a small ensemble made up of saxophones, usually in a quartet configuration. The Saxtet performs music in a wide variety of styles, including spirituals, blues, ragtime, and jazz. Performance Scholarships are available for the Jazz Orchestra. Auditions are normally held during Accepted Students Weekends in April, but may be arranged at any time by contacting director Brent White,

About the Department of Performing Arts

The Drexel University Department of Performing Arts is a dedicated community of artists, faculty, and staff committed to providing quality education in dance, music, and theater. The Department looks to expand students' knowledge and skills through academic coursework, rigorous technical training, experiences with professional artists, innovative community outreach, and outstanding performance opportunities. The Department of Performing Arts is home to the dance major and eight minors. It is also home to over 20 performing ensembles including the University Chorus, University Orchestra, Drexel Dance Ensemble, and Drexel Co-Op Theatre Company. For more information, visit