EWU’s music department premieres Scheherajazz

By Sam Jackson, Reporter

For the first time in North America, a renowned piece of work called Scheherajazz will be performed by EWU’s Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Jazz Band in the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

In symphony production, a very familiarized piece of orchestral work exists called Scheherazade, which was made by Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Scheherajazz is an arrangement that has been coined from that work as a classical and jazz version. It was created by Skip Martin, a bandleader in the 1950s. However, they only recorded it in the studio and never actually performed it live. After being transcribed by a man in Switzerland, Klaus Wagenleitner, the music finally went live for the first time. John Marshall, EWU’s Symphony Orchestra director, reached out to Wagenleitner and bought the music so that EWU could be the second group to perform it live.

“This will be the North American premiere,” said Jody Graves, director of piano and facilitator of the event. “A premiere of a major work like this is a big deal.”

Both ensembles have been rehearsing for the event separately, only to rehearse together a few times at the end of the month and right before the show. It’s fairly rare for an orchestra and jazz band to come together in the music industry.

“It’s the same 12 notes that we use, but it’s a very different dialect what jazz people do with those 12 notes and what classical people do with those 12 notes,” Marshall said.

The violin is featured as the solo voice in this work. To elevate that aspect, an anonymous EWU alum will be performing on a rare violin. The violin is called a del Gesu, which was made in Italy by Joseph Guarnerius in 1736. There are only about 20 to 30 of these violins left in the world.

“It’s a very special instrument and rare that people ever get to hear it,” said Graves. “So, Spokane is going to get to hear this live and upfront […] One of them went for over $18 million in a recent auction, that’s how valuable these are.”

On the night of the premiere, many musicians from the EWU music department will be featured leading up to the main event. This is the signature event of the year for the department.

“This whole evening at the FOX is a gala celebration of Eastern’s whole music department,” said Graves. “The first half is soloists, small groups, some singers and really fun music. There’s everything from Gershwin to Led Zeppelin. It’s going to be quite the evening.”

The music department hasn’t done a big event like this in downtown Spokane since performing at the Bing Crosby Theater almost seven years ago. According to Marshall, the students have been practicing their wholes lives for this event.

“We are putting these students on that great-big-wonderful stage, which is one of the best in the West Coast, and really celebrating what we do here at this university in this aspect of the program,” said Grave. “You will be blown away by what these kids can do.”

The concert is on May 31, and the pre-concert begins at 6:30 p.m. The main event begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for all EWU students, $5 for other students with ID and $20 for general admission. Tickets can be purchased on the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox website.