Musicians Jazz it up at MSJC

Dr. Jeremy Brown chairs the music department at Mt. San Jacinto College and teaches all styles of music to a variety of students. His love of jazz is evident in his Jazz Ensemble class, which meets weekly at the Menifee Valley Campus.
The culmination of the class will be a performance on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Menifee Valley Campus Lab Theatre. (Story continues below photos.) 
Dr. Jeremy Brown 
​The saxophone section
“Jazz is absolutely my favorite genre to teach, write, perform – though jazz encompasses a huge variety of musical styles,” said Brown, Associate Professor of Music at MSJC.
Brown started his own musical career as a rock drummer and still enjoys playing that type of music. His dad was a concert pianist and his mom was a singer trained in classical voice. Both teach at universities so Brown grew up in an academic music world.
Starting in high school and all the way through his university work, Brown said playing with jazz ensembles – both big band and small groups – were the most important part of his education, and the most fun. After completing his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin, Brown moved to Temecula and soon began teaching at MSJC.
“Jazz is a complex art form with many levels of artistry,” he explained. “It’s both intellectual and emotional. There’s a great deal of teamwork but there’s also an aspect of competition within that team. With so many elements, it’s impossible to get tired of jazz.”
Brown started teaching the Jazz Ensemble course a year after he joined the faculty at MSJC. This semester’s Jazz class will be recording a CD at LMP Studios in Claremont on May 10, 11 and 12.
Brown chose to record the current students for several reasons.
“Although we’ve seen some important musicians come and go, this is a group with a lot of key players and personalities that I want to document and create something permanent with,” he said. “Also, I wanted the music to be primarily original compositions and we’ve built up the repertoire with a substantial number of originals that work well together as an album.”
Some of the original compositions included on the CD are from Brown, including a suite of three songs he wrote for his sons.
“Two others are by local composer, Sean Longstreet, and one was composed by one of my teachers in Austin, Texas: John Fremgen,” explained Brown.
He said he is most fulfilled as an instructor when he can watch the development of a band over the course of a semester.
“It’s very satisfying to challenge the band with music they haven’t been exposed to before and to see them conquer their issues week by week and then to nail it in concerts,” said Brown.
Bassist Hugh Carney, 18, likes learning how to play jazz in many different styles. Glenn Edwards brings more than 50 years of concert/classical and jazz performance experience playing clarinet, flute and saxophone to the mix.
“I really like the integration of ideas in this class,” said Edwards, 66.
Brown said it can be a challenge to run a band with such diverse ages and experiences but there are also great benefits.
“Everyone is on a different career track,” he said. “Some are students who plan to transfer, some of them will be music majors and others will pursue other careers. Some were music students long ago and already have a career in music education or performance. Some have played informally for a long time.”
Don Jackson has played trombone with Dixieland and Civil War bands during his 40 years of soulful playing. Zach Rask is a drummer for the ensemble.
“I loved playing jazz in high school and wanted to continue in college. The MSJC jazz band actually visited my high school and I was very interested,” said Rask, 20. “I get to learn new music almost every rehearsal, which expands my musical knowledge and vocabulary.”
Brown said everybody draws from their different perspectives, which is important because music is a field that cannot be completely learned in the classroom. That is why it is so important to offer opportunities for students to perform each semester.
“It’s not just about earning credits toward a degree,” he said. “Every club gig, rehearsal or theater performance builds a mature musician, piece by piece.”
Trumpet players John Hess, Gary Perrigo and John Tribelhorn have 94 years of combined musical experience. Perrigo, 65 joined the class for the fun and Tribelhorn is an associate faculty member at MSJC with a master’s degree in music in trumpet performance.
“This class is a trumpet workout and the group plays music that no other group plays,” said Hess, 30.
Guitarists Ivan Lara, John Leclerc and Pace Proffitt are all in their early 20s and enjoy the course’s challenges and its opportunities for them to make good music.
“I like getting to meet other musicians and learn more about jazz,” said Proffitt, 22.
Pianists Marci Duncker and Dan Kurtzman have 12 years and 40 years playing experience, respectively. Duncker, 19, is glad to have learned how to read charts better and Kurtzman, 68, likes playing new music and mentoring young people.
“I appreciate the support and good wishes that the college and the community send our way. The jazz ensemble would not be what it is without that support,” said Brown. “It’s my hope that our recording will not only document what the band has been able to achieve at this point but it will show the beginning of the next stage in the development of the band and the music program. We look forward to showing the MSJC family what’s next.”
The Menifee Valley Campus is at 28237 La Piedra Rd. Tickets are $10 each, or $9 with a valid MSJC SGA sticker. For reservations, call the Lab Theatre Box Office/Reservation Line at 951-639-5790. Seating is limited.
For more information, contact Dr. Brown at 951-639-5665 or