Swinging into a New Semester with a Live Performance 


Mason’s Jazz faculty rang in a new semester of live music with an off-campus performance at Jammin’ Java, an eclectic concert venue, bar and café in Vienna. The event was held on Sunday, Aug. 29 and featured the experienced jazz musicians that make up Mason’s Jazz Studies program.

Dr. Darden Purcell, the director of Jazz Studies, explained that this was one of the first live Jazz faculty performances since the beginning of the pandemic, following only one small performance in May 2021.

The set started off bold with a bright, high-energy song that instantly caught the crowd’s attention. Front and center at the start of the show were Aaron Eckert on trombone and Xavier Perez on saxophone. In all, there were ten musicians on the stage, rotating in and out for different musical numbers throughout the night.

“It’s a great experience to be back in the community and playing music after being cooped up so many times; music energizes people, and I guess all artists want to lift people up,” Perez said. “Technology is great, but it’s limiting. There’s a lot of nonverbal communication in all arts but specifically in jazz, you’ve got to be able to play the time and almost feel the room. Technology doesn’t allow you to do that.”

The room in question was a vibrant one. Rather than the stiff silence that often accompanies live performance, the crowd buzzed through the performance, ordering food and drinks, talking to their seatmates and bursting into applause or cheers even in the middle of a song.

Purcell explained that the choice to hold the performance off campus was “to support the community, hopefully to meet some new people and form a stronger bond with our community.”

“There’s something different about doing a performance in a place like this where you can eat or drink, rather than in the Center for the Arts,” she said. “It’s a little bit more casual — it’s just a really cool experience.”

The show consisted of two sets, in which the style and mood of the songs were constantly changing, ranging from raucous brass instruments to a sweet vocal ballad. According to Purcell, the performance utilized many different styles of jazz, including hard bop, bebop, a ballad and a waltz.

Many of the audience members were Mason students, including Caroline Whichard, a sophomore Music Technology major. “I feel like it’ll be a good thing to have at the beginning of the year to introduce [you to] the people who are going to teach you jazz,” they said.

For Mason music students, this semester will contain many opportunities for in-person education and live performance. According to Purcell, nearly all jazz classes this semester will be in-person, and there is a roster of about ten live student events planned for fall 2021.