“At least half of the students in this band are not music majors,” says Bob Lark, adjunct professor of music and director of the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos. “We have multiple engineering majors, meteorology majors, but the students are kind, polite, and they’re into it.”
One of the best things about being a Valpo student is the variety of opportunities one has to become their best selves, and part of that is fostering a campus community that supports multiple, diverse interests. The University takes pride in encouraging its students to pursue multiple interests and excel in a vast array of fields. The Valparaiso University Jazz Ensemble is one organization that embodies that spirit of opportunity.
“That’s why I picked Valpo,” says Miranda Schabes ’26, a biology and chemistry double-major who spends her Tuesday and Thursday afternoons plucking away at the bass. “I don’t have to be a specific major or minor to be fully participating in the music program.”
Miranda has played in jazz bands for the majority of her schooling, starting in junior high school and with no plans to quit anytime soon.
I was kind of disappointed that it was my gift. I went there wanting to hate it, and when the band came on and played their first notes, as corny as it sounds, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“I love it, it’s just the most fun music to play,” she says. “I want to work in a lab. But I’ll never stop playing music.”
Ethan Preston ’26 is a double major as well, focusing on computer science and music, and is glad to have found a community where he can pursue both.
“Valpo had a lot of good opportunities for me,” Ethan says. “They made the idea of double-majoring appealing, seeing how willing they were to work with me on it. Both the computer science program and the music program here are great, and I really like the people involved in them.”
Ethan began playing the saxophone nine years ago, but had not played in an ensemble before coming to Valpo.
“I’ve always been interested in jazz,” he says. “I grew up listening to it, my parents were into jazz, so I’ve always been interested in the sound.”
Music was not, however, always a fundamental part of life for Professor Lark, whose relationship with the medium got off to an unenthusiastic start.
“I had been in band since third grade, and was thinking of quitting because I was bored,” he recalls. “A Christmas present from my grandmother was a pair of tickets to see a jazz concert by the late, great drummer Buddy Rich. My dad and I went to it, and I went reluctantly, to be honest. I was kind of disappointed that it was my gift. I went there wanting to hate it, and when the band came on and played their first notes, as corny as it sounds, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
The Valparaiso University Jazz Ensemble performs an average of four times a semester, both at the black box theatre and at the student lounge, The Bell and Beacon. The Ensemble also hosts an annual Jazz Festival in April, hosting professional musicians and a dozen high school bands for a week of workshops and performances. This year’s event will take place April 11-14 and will feature The Katie Ernst Trio, The Marlene Rosenberg Trio, and more. For more details on the festival, click here.