Jazz Band Camp introduces students to jazz music

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Ricky Burks, left, leads students through a jazz tune during the annual Jazz Band Camp hosted at Wallace State. / Wallace State

HANCEVILLE – Clapping out the beat and sounding out the notes, Wallace State Community College Jazz Band Director Ricky Burks put about two dozen students through their paces during the annual Jazz Band Camp held for incoming freshman and returning sophomores interested in joining the school’s music ensembles.

The camp offered some students their first introduction to jazz and gave students a chance to meet or reconnect with fellow classmates for the fall.

Jessica Webster, of Fultondale, is a freshman at Wallace State. A graduate of Tabernacle Christian in Gardendale, Webster said she’s been a musician since she was 2 years old. “I was a singer first, and I picked up piano around third grade, and guitar about four years ago,” she said. She will be playing the piano at Wallace State and her goal is to work on her music career as a Christian music singer/songwriter while taking courses at Wallace State. If her music career kicks off like she hopes, she’ll focus on that; if not, she plans to transfer to the University of Alabama to become a music therapist.

Trained as a classical pianist, Webster said the Jazz Band Camp was a great help in getting her ready to play that style of music. “I’ve never been used to the style before, I never listened to it, so this camp has helped a lot,” she said. “I’ve learned how to improvise, because a lot of the songs here they give you chord charts. There are some written notes here and there, but a lot of it is you’re going to fill in the chord for the soloist.”

The camp also introduced her to new friends. “I made about five, six friends and I found out I have a lot in common with these people,” she said. “It’s nice to have a little family that I can go to every day.” Along with Jazz Band, Webster plans to perform with the Wallace State Choir.

Becky Finley, of Cullman, is returning for her second year with the Jazz Band and Wallace State Choir. She’s been playing trumpet for more than 20 years and is a singer as well. She stepped away from music and school for a while, before deciding to come back to both and is now a music education major. “I came specifically for choir; I want to be a choir director, and the more I kept praying about it, the more God opened doors,” she said.

She joined the Jazz Band during her first semester at Wallace State. “I love improv and I love jazz,” she said. “It’s something that you can work through and present yourself. It’s a way of expressing yourself through music.”

This was her first Jazz Band camp and she said she learned a lot, even though she’s been in the band a year. She’ll also be a member of the Wallace State Choir once again.

Wallace State Community College is an All-Steinway School, one of only six community colleges in the nation to earn that honor.

All students at Wallace State Community College are welcome to try out for the Wallace State Jazz Band, Concert Band, Singers and Theatre productions. All Wallace State students are welcome to join the Wallace State Choir.

For the Jazz Band, contact Ricky Burks at 256-352-8287 or ricky.burks@wallacestate.

For the Concert Band, contact Jacob Keisler at 256-352-8176 or jacob.keisler@wallacestate.edu. 

For the Wallace State Singers or Choir, contact Tiffany Richter at 256-352-8034 or tiffany.richter@wallacestate.edu.

For the Theatre program, contact Lauren Salerno at 256-352-8422 or lauren.salerno@wallacestate.edu.

For more information about Wallace State, call 256-352-8000 or visit www.wallacestate.edu.