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‘Private Ears’ jazz ensemble brings faculty together

By Sara Humm
On November 10, 2010

This year there will be some Private Ears on campus.

Private Ears, the faculty jazz ensemble, is new to the OU campus this semester.

The group is being led by Director of Jazz Studies and Instructor of Saxophone, Todd Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said most university jazz studies programs have faculty groups.

"I was hired by OU and I knew I needed a group of guys to teach and play," Wilkinson said. "It is important that we have a high quality group of people."

The group consists of five members that play bass, guitar, drums, trumpet and saxophone.

"I know them all really well," Wilkinson said. "It's like working with friends and I respect them all as musicians as well."

Brian Baggette, adjunct instructor of jazz guitar and guitar player in the quintet is new to the OU campus and excited to be joining this type of new group.

"Jazz programs in general are becoming pretty standard," Baggette said. "It's a great opportunity to be a part of a new faculty band."

Trumpet player Robert McCurdy has taught at many places and been in many musical groups but he says each one is unique.

"I've played with hundreds of musicians," McCurdy said. "Every group is different."

When it comes to the group, the members are all on the same page for where they want to be in the future.

"Everyone is relaxed and comfortable and we are all on the same page," Wilkinson said. "But it usually takes about a year to get where we would want to be."

The band members think they are a cohesive group that plays good music.

"It's a cutting edge group of guys," Baggette said. "We are a pretty interesting jazz band."

"It's a great bunch of musicians to play with," McCurdy said.

Wilkinson says he thinks the group will be a good way to get perspective students interested in the jazz program at OU.

"It will become a good recruiting too," he said. "We can't just open the doors and expect students to come, we need to get out there and recruit."

He said physically reaching out to potential students and showing them what OU has to offer is the best way to get students interested.

"We will be getting out there and doing performances with high schools to show them what OU has to offer," Wilkinson said. "We also hope to hold clinics and do lessons to help recruit."

The jazz players also hope to get the campus interested in music.

"It's good to expose everyone on campus to jazz," McCurdy said.

Private Ears will be playing with the OU Braves Jazz Ensemble and the University Jazz Singers on Nov. 18 in the Chapel.

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