You like Jazz? Students find renewed interest in genre


Matt Troher, A & E editor

What once was a musical laughing stock reserved for infomercials and elevator music is now making a comeback to be one of the most relevant and impactful genres of recent years. Despite seemingly hitting the bottom of the pop-culture barrel just a few years back, jazz is slowly slipping back into our mainstream music culture.

Members of the DGN Band community share in the sentiment that jazz is due for a mainstream comeback. Senior Ryan Knezevich, who’s been playing in the DGN Band program for the past four years and is currently a member of the Jazz Ensemble, says that jazz is making a comeback.

“Definitely through the hip hop scene, a lot of artists are using jazz in a way that is able to help them tell stories through their music. By including Jazz it has more of a well rounded sound, and it adds to the emotion, jazz has a lot of emotion to it”, Knezevich said.

In 2015, popular hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar released his third studio album, “To Pimp a Butterfly”, which combined hip-hop and jazz on a widely impactful scale, hitting the top of the Billboard Charts, and selling over 1,000,000 copies in the U.S alone.

Crossing over not just genres, but generations, artists Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga released a traditional vocal jazz album in 2014, entitled Cheek to Cheek, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 200, and selling over 750,000 copies to date. Along with that, films incorporating jazz as part of their soundtracks and plot, such as “La La Land” and “Whiplash”, are grossing multi-millions of dollars.

DGN Jazz Band member, senior Ben Heppner, who plays in Jazz Ensemble, thinks that although the amount of people who listen to jazz hasn’t increased all that much in recent years, the respect people have for the music has increased.

“I don’t feel like kids are listening to it all the time, but I feel there’s a growing respect towards it.” Heppner also noted more students taking interest in the musical style. “I think there are more kids doing Jazz band throughout the four years I’ve been here,” Heppner said.

Sales only tell one part of the story. Even though jazz as a commercial product has been on the decline prior to the recent boost, it’s popularity can be found in higher institutions.

Heppner notices that many DGN band members continue on with their musical interest in the future.
“I feel like a lot of people, at least for their first couple years, are at least in their university band, you don’t need to be a major, you just do it for fun. I feel like a lot of people do that if they don’t major in music,” Heppner said.
According to the National Association of Schools of Music, the amount of students enrolled in jazz studies has increased by 33% since 2004, as well as the number of institutions simply offering undergraduate jazz majors increasing by 26%.

As for jazz at DGN, there are two bands that play, the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Lab Band. Each band consists of 25 members, who are chosen through an audition process.

The next jazz band concert at DGN takes place on Nov. 2 in the Clarence Johnson Auditorium, in which both bands will play. The ILMEA District Jazz Festival, in which members of the DGN band community audition for, will take place on Nov. 11.