June 13, 2024

The stage became a place for musicians to showcase heritage and rhythm during the Black History Month Celebration concert at Northpoint Church. The concert was presented by the California Baptist University Jazz Ensemble and had many different special guests such as jazz bassist Dr. Marshall Hawkins, CBU strings and CBU modern jazz orchestra. An unforgettable jazz show unfolded on Feb. 16, celebrating vibrant culture, serving as a powerful homage to creativity and honoring the profound influence of Black musicians throughout history. 

The celebration was centered on the history of jazz and offered a chance to reflect upon the wondrous musical journey that tells a story without words.

The concert was a celebration of resilience and a testament to the enduring legacy of jazz. The performance consisted of the jazz ensemble performing different medleys of famous Black composers, a performance from CBU’s History of Jazz class and an African drums performance. The event  also featured special vocal performances from different singers such as Traivon Willams, CBU alumnus and music educator. 

Kyle Harris Archie, a senior and music major at CBU said, “This art form comes from a place of oppression and hard times, it has evolved into everything else we listen to today (…) it tells a story through our pain.”

Jazz music has left an indelible mark on American culture, working its way into literature and art. The genre stands as a testament to resilience and creativity, serving as a cornerstone in the narrative of Black history.

Dr. Dan St. Marseille, CBU’s music director, explained, “Jazz music was born here in America and came from African American folk traditions; it has influenced society, and society has influenced it.”

The concert included an homage to great black composers such as Duke Ellington. The event had African drums, slap jazz, swing music and a variety of styles representing Black culture.

According to St. Marseille, the jazz ensembles’ preparation for the show is in the span of two weeks. The strings have around a week to practice, and then they meet as a group to have an hour of rehearsal the night of the concert. As the jazz history professor at CBU, Marseille understood the cultural significance that the event entailed. He reflected on the importance of celebrating African American heritage through music.

“You go into an elevator, you hear jazz, you go see a motion picture, jazz – you wouldn’t have the popular styles today if you didn’t have jazz,” Marseille said.

While Marseille’s words hold true, jazz often doesn’t receive the appreciation it deserves. It is crucial to recognize the significant influence jazz has had on many well-known records. From the multitude of artists featured in Spotify or Apple Music playlists drawing inspiration from jazz beats and blues tunes like “Apricot Princess” by Rex Orange County to “Passionfruit” by Drake, the roots come from old jazz music. 

“Jazz music is the foundation, in my opinion, for as much as 80% or 90% of artistic culture around the world,” Marseille said. 

According to Marseille, although jazz may not be the most well-known genre among the college-aged generation, it is seen everywhere.

After the final performance came to an end, attendees of the jazz concert stayed, reflecting on the experience. 

One audience member, Andrew Calvillo, fifth year music education major and singer, shared his opinion on the event. 

“I really enjoyed the Duke Ellington melody – it had all of my favorite songs,” Calvillo said. 

The jazz concert served as a reminder of the legacy of Black music and culture. Through the soulful melodies of the performers, attendees were transported on a journey, connecting with the beautiful heritage of Black culture and the triumphs of generations past, which was very clear to the audience members.

“I think Black history and culture was at the foundation of the music itself, so it was presenting everything that was played,” Calvillo said. 

The audience bonded over how jazz continues to honor and uplift the voices of those who have shaped music as it is known today. The show ensured that their contributions are recognized and celebrated for generations to come, all while standing as a testament to Black heritage and the transformative power of music to inspire, educate and unite us all. 

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