Following a stretch of low membership, since 1996 the University of Pennsylvania Jazz Ensemble has been growing phenomenally.
This growth is due in large part to Adam Warshafsky, who as a first year undergraduate student took the position of Musical Director and president. Under his leadership, Andrew Nelson, an accomplished local bassist, was hired as the group's music director for the 1997-98 school year. Working with the Penn community and administration, Warshafsky rebuilt Penn Jazz. By the end of the 1997 the band's membership had risen to 17 members. Proper budgets, library organization, scheduling, equipment, music, and administration were obtained once again. The group began playing several concerts, including a concert at the "Castle" on Penn's campus, a performance at Penn's Spring Fling, and a formal concert in the Annenberg Center.
The following year saw continued growth for Penn Jazz. Warshafsky, working with the newly appointed vice president of the band, Michael Larsen, brought recruitment to the foreground, increasing membership back to 20. Under the direction of Louis Spagnola, hired for the 1998-99 school year, the group played various concerts including the nationally televised Fairhill Maryland International Equestrian Event, the Sophomore Class
UPenn Jazz Is Incredible.
"Everyone was so impressed!! I can't believe you guys are just in college! UPennJazz is incredible."
Mary Lou Newnam has been playing music professionally since 1973. A native of Wilmington Delaware, Mary Lou began her musical education at a young age with piano, and continued studies at the Wilmington Music School on classical guitar, flute, music theory, and saxophone. While in high school, she began sitting in at jam sessions in Wilmington and Philadelphia, and as an applied flute major at Duquesne University, she studied classical flute with Bernard Goldberg while playing lead tenor sax in the jazz band. Later in Wilmington, Mary Lou began playing professionally at the Hotel DuPont Playhouse and with a succession of big bands including those led by Ray Eberle, Les Elgart, Charlie Spivak, Lee Castle and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Warren Covington and the Pied Pipers, Bob Crosby, and Cab Calloway. She has performed with the Temptations, Rosemary Clooney, Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, the Manhattan Transfer among many others in the house orchestra at Trump Plaza and the Claridge Casino, in addition to most of the other Atlantic City showrooms.
The group's formation coincided with a commercial popularity that jazz (certain styles, at least, such as fusion) was enjoying at the time
In 2011, Penn Jazz had the privelage of performing with yet another jazz legend. Jazz bassist Christian McBride was slated to perform the Philadelphia premiere of his self-composed jazz opus The Movement Revisited in the Annenberg Center, and called upon Penn Jazz as the big band to accompany him. The opus, which highlighted key moments and figures of the Civil Rights Movement, was a collaboration between McBride, Penn Jazz, vocalist J.D. Steele, and the Penn Gospel Choir. The performance "wowed" a packed Annenberg Center.
Among other interesting happenings, Penn Jazz had clinics with several notable jazz musicians, including John Scofield. In 2005, Penn Jazz attended the University of the Arts Jazz Festival and receivied stellar ratings from the judges. Later that year, we were accepted to attend the prestigious North Texas Jazz Festival but were unable to attend due to a lack of funding. In the spring of 2005, Penn Jazz recorded its most recent album, "All the Way" which featured some of the highlights from 2002 through 2005. The fall of 2005 brought about quite a bit of change as Penn Jazz found itself without a director. While Penn Jazz was very sad to see Alan Kinsey leave, we realized that change inevitably leads to growth.
Also during the fall of 2005, Penn Jazz became more prominent in the local jazz scene, appearing at both Chris's Jazz Cafe as a big band and World Cafe Live, as a jazz combo. Both were great learning experiences and Penn Jazz continues to grow in the local jazz scene under the expert direction of Ed Wise.
We had never tried booking a jazz combo before, and weren't sure what to expect from you - But WOW, we couldn't believe it when all of our guests were on their feet dancing!"
Musicians like Maynard Ferguson and Herbie Hancock enjoyed the limelight, and Penn's new jazz band was embraced and touted by the school, who sent them on a tour around the Northeast. Led by Claude White from the Penn Band through most of the 70's, the jazz band played with such jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, the Count Basie Orchestra, and Wynton Marsalis. The group has also been fortunate enough to work with past directors such as Denis DiBlasio, Nami Leef, Serge Yow, John Cooper, Andrew Nelson, Louis Spagnola, and Alan Kinsey.
The group was formed in the fall of 1973. There had been various jazz groups on campus for the first half of the 20th century, but the first official jazz band at Penn was part of Penn (marching) Band. This incarnation was the spiritual predecessor to Penn Jazz. After its dissolution, there was a void left, which was filled by the formation of the University of Pennsylvania Jazz Ensemble--Penn Jazz.
Swing Dance, several concerts for the University's undergraduate nightlife programs, and an opening performance for the esteemed Herbie Hancock trio. Over the last several years, Penn Jazz has also been fortunate to perform with groups such as the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble, Penn Singers, Penn's jazz professor Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, and the dance groups African Rhythms, Onda Latina, Sparks Dance Company, West Philly Swingers, and Counterparts. In the spring of 1999, Penn Jazz recorded its first album, Beat One.Type your paragraph here.
The next several years brought Penn Jazz to new heights.
The first part of the semester, president Jeff William served as interim musical director while we searched for a replacement. Jeff's leadership played a crucial role in bringing the band to where it is today. In an interesting turn of fate, Penn Jazz found its new musical director, Ed Wise, when trombonist Ryan Cochran struck up a random conversation with him at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. Ed, an accomplished bassist, composer, and arranger had recently moved to Philadelphia from New Orleans. He was the ideal new director for Penn Jazz.