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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

"Wynton Works"

The University of Dayton Jazz Ensemble will perform the music of jazz great Wynton Marsalis in collaboration with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company at this weekend's performances of Wynton Works at the Victoria Theatre.

Wynton Works will feature three world premieres set to live music from the University Jazz Ensemble and a trio of jazz musicians collaborating under DCDC music director Deron Bell. The scores will highlight the wide breadth of Marsalis’ body of work.

The show is sponsored by the Dayton Power & Light Foundation and the University of Dayton. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. in downtown Dayton.

The jazz ensemble is open by audition to all University students. Its members include music performance, music education, music therapy and jazz studies majors, as well as students from the School of Engineering and other schools, departments and programs across the University.

“Music students rarely get the opportunity to collaborate with dancers and choreographers, so working with artists of the caliber of DCDC is really special,” said Julia Randel, associate professor and department of music chair. “It requires them to be more precise in their rhythm and attentive to their phrasing — and they get to share the excitement of performance with professional dancers.”

DCDC choreographer Stafford C. Berry Jr., creator of crowd favorite Wawa Aba seen in last spring’s Vantage Points concert, is creating a new piece with the working title, Double Dutch & Broken Levie.

“Watching the news, I was struck by this idea that dangerous, violent works of nature are sort of a staple in some communities,” Berry said. “In certain economically disadvantaged communities, when storms happen, levies break.”

DCDC Associate Artistic Director Crystal Michelle is choreographing a quartet based on a series of scores from Marsalis called The Death of Jazz. She said the music has the feel of a New Orleans funeral dirge.

DCDC dancers Qarrianne Blayr and Countess V. Winfrey are collaborating to choreograph the culminating piece, which explores the community agreement about what happens on the journey through life.

Founded in 1968 by Jeraldyne Blunden, DCDC is a culturally diverse contemporary dance company rooted in the African-American experience. DCDC tours regionally, nationally and internationally, and holds the world’s largest archive of classic African-American dance works.

DCDC served for a number of years as the University of Dayton’s community artist-in-residence, offering performances, classes and artistic collaborations on campus. Debbie Blunden-Diggs, DCDC artistic director, is currently an adjunct faculty member in the theatre, dance and performance technology program.

The University has helped sponsor the creation of DCDC work, and faculty and students have composed and played live music for the company’s performances.

Performing a varied repertory of swing to contemporary jazz, rock and funk, the University Jazz Ensemble gives regular local and regional concerts, and has appeared at high school and college jazz festivals and other invited musical events, including the Ohio Music Educators' Association conference.

The ensemble most recently collaborated with DCDC in a program of music by Duke Ellington, directed by associate professor Willie Morris. This semester the band performs under the direction of lecturer Jimmy Leach, a jazz and classical trumpeter and vocalist whose performing career has taken him from Opryland in Nashville to the Boston Lyric Opera.

Tickets are available through Ticket Center Stage, online at or by phone at 937-228-3630. For more information, visit DCDC’s website.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

Photo above: dancer Matthew Talley, by Scott Robbins.

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