St Olaf jazz band floats on news of DownBeat honor

20080125_musichall_39.jpgDave Hagedorn says there’s been a new intensity at rehearsals for Jazz One, the St Olaf ensemble.

“Because they know they’ve got something to live up to in our concerts coming up next weekend,” he says.

Hagedorn is the jazz band director and artist in residence at St Olaf, but to his students he may be currently known as the guy who entered them in the annual DownBeat Magazine awards – which they then won as best undergraduate large ensemble.

“When I told them they were pretty blown away,” Hagedorn told me. “They kind of went ‘Us?’ Which was kind of cool,” he laughed, “Because first of all they didn’t even know I had entered a recording.”

DownBeat has been making its jazz awards for three decades, and some awards have floated Minnesota’s way in the past.

However Hagedorn saw the award-winning bands at Lawrence in Appleton WI and at UW-Eau Claire as the models. He says winning the award will allow the St Olaf program to build.

“We have been telling people our program is growing and getting better, and we haven’t really had any outside evaluation of it.”

With a slight sense of understatement Hagedorn says this award tells prospective students things are going well. He has high praise for the students currently in the band, and he looks forward to using them as a basis on which to grow the band in the future.

The St Olaf award is getting special attention from the magazine itself.

“DownBeat actually did an article on the band because I think we just kind of came out of nowhere. For a small college like this that people haven’t heard of so far as jazz goes, they are kind of tickled by this,” he said. He says the June issue will ship in about a week.

Meanwhile Jazz One has its final concert of the year coming up on Friday at 8.15pm and it’s likely to be quite a celebration. Hagedorn says he hasn’t slept properly for a couple of months since he learned of the award.

“Like I told a bunch of people, this is by far the peak of my teaching career so far.”

You can hear more from Hagedorn and his students in a video put together by St Olaf. You can also listen to “Transit” one of the three pieces Hagedorn sent to Downbeat from the ensemble’s fall concert by clicking on the button below.

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