As the fall semester comes to a close at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so do the performances for the Glenn Korff School of Music. Most of the events during the month of December are student ensembles and many of our talented students are involved in more than one ensemble.
Junior Brian Vuu, who is a music education major, has a busy month. Vuu played in the Sax Ensembles event earlier this week, the Wind Ensemble on Dec. 4, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble concert Dec. 6, the Jazz Orchestra and Big Band concert Dec. 10, and the Cornhusker Marching Band Highlights Concert at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Dec. 17.
Vuu, who grew up in Lincoln, started taking a liking to the saxophone in the fifth grade.
“My elementary (Hill) school teacher was John Scofield,” Vuu said. “He had this improv thing that he did. He gave us the notes to play and then by what we would play (there were four people in the class), he would play at the same intensity. I was trying to be all hot shot and play a lot of notes and he just smoked me on it. To me, it sounded so cool that he could change what we played. It got me thinking more about jazz and improvisation. It made me want to grow on saxophone even more.”
Vuu said he’s had a lot of great teachers along the way and pushing him to become better, including Paul Haar, associate professor of saxophone and director of jazz studies, who he met his junior year of high school. In high school, he was just involved in the bands at Lincoln Southwest and no vocals.
“I hadn’t delved into choirs until I got here,” Vuu said. “I was really uncomfortable singing until I got here too. Then I had skills class and men’s choir and I was like I’m OK so I started doing vocal groups.”
Vuu said he emjoys being being involved in so many UNL ensembles.
“I love it,” Vuu said. “I know it’s a lot but it’s just the next day and it’s like I’m going to play in a concert again. I don’t get desensitized to the gravity of how important it is to everyone but I just come and play because I do it so often but I think that is good though because I don’t get nervous. It’s the daily life that I’ve always dressed up and go to Kimball and play for people. I love when people clap and are happy with the music that our groups make.”
Vuu figures he puts in 25 hours of actual scheduled practice time during a week with the Cornhusker Marching Band taking up a lot of that time.
“There are aspects of each of them with the camaraderie,” Vuu said. “It’s so different from group to group, even how each group is run differently with each director. That variation makes it interesting. Each group is dynamic and has it’s own personality. I love everything I’m in because of how different they are. The music corresponds to the personality of the group. The music forms a strong connection in my brain and how much I like them.
“All of the music groups I’m in boils down to how much I love jazz.”
Abbey Jo Klein is in both Big Red Singers and the UNL Vocal Jazz Ensemble. A sophomore from Adams, Klein has performed music throughout her life. Her mom, a church organist, started her in voice lessons when she was 12.
“She was always involved in music,” Klein said. “She didn’t make me personally get involved in band but she made my siblings do band all throughout high school and that was good. I think it makes you a well-rounded person.
“I did concert band when I was high school and jazz band for a couple of years,” she said. “I took a leadership role in our band and learned a couple of different instruments. My music teacher made me a more diverse performer. Sometimes (for example) I would need to sing a tenor part, but I’m a soprano.”
Now an exercise science major, Klein was in Big Red Singers last year as well. The group rehearses five hours a week.
“Coming into the audition (her freshman year) and being from a small school we did show choir as in basic box steps and basic waltzes. I had no dance background whatsoever. I went into the audition and we had to dance. I nearly had a heart attack because it was so much harder. I grew a lot last year because it’s a different kind of performing art. I love it and I never plan on leaving it. It’s so much fun.”
“I love our whole show. Our opener is cool and I was lucky enough to get the solo so I’m really excited about that.”
The polar opposite of the dancing of Big Red Singers is the UNL Vocal Jazz Ensemble, which she joined in the Spring of 2013.
“I loved it so I joined it again this year,” Klein said. “Big Red Singers is like buzzing all of the time and Vocal Jazz is let’s sit and listen to some jazz tunes. It’s a more relaxed environment but I enjoy them both so much!”
“We have a great rhythm section this year,” Klein said. “Last year we were kind of memorizing our pieces on the spot. We were looking for our music before we went on stage. This year we have five or six songs that we have down pat. We are so prepared. Kara (Baxter, the director) did an awesome job picking out our pieces.”
Remaining events offered by the Glenn Korff School of Music ensembles and groups include:
— Big Red Singers and UNL Vocal Jazz Ensemble, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, Kimball Hall
— Chamber Singers, 5 p.m. Dec. 6, Sheldon Museum of Art
— UNL Choirs (Varsity Men’s Chorus, City Campus Choir, University Women’s Chorale), 3 p.m. Dec. 8, Kimball Hall
— UNL Jazz Orchestra and UNL Big Band, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, Kimball Hall
— Symphonic Band, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, Kimball Hall
— Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Kimball Hall