The Jazz Ensemble was reborn in 1989 after an absence of five years. 16-19 students are selected by audition to study myriad styles of jazz encompassing swing, Latin, fusion, bop, and the American Songbook. The band toured Europe in 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 with performances at the Montreux, Vienné, and the North Sea International Jazz Festivals as well as presenting concerts in Amsterdam, Paris, Bruges, Heidelberg, Athens, and Venice. The GCJE has opened for Ray Brown and Phil Woods and performed with world renowned soloists Paquito D'Rivera, Boston Brass, Denis DiBlasio, Lew Soloff, Graham Breedlove, and Chris Brubeck. The ensemble was honored to perform at the 2011 MENC Eastern Division Conference in Baltimore. This is the first music ensemble in the history of Gettysburg College to be afforded this opportunity.
Jazz has been an integral part of musical life on campus for two decades. Students with an interest in jazz can live in The Blue Note House and be a member of The Jazz Appreciation Society, sponsors of an annual swing dance and other jazz related activities. In 2009, eight jazz students joined a group who volunteered help rebuild homes in St. Bernard Parish and also enjoyed taking in the vibrant culture of New Orleans. Numerous jazz ensemble members have served as worship leaders in a local church committed to innovative music programming.
In 2011, the Jazz Ensemble and several alumni departed for Europe on the 4th of July for a two week concert tour of France and Switzerland. The band performed invited concerts at the Montreux Jazz Festival on Lake Geneva, Jazz a Vienne near Lyon, and Jazz a Juan on the French Riviera. The student musicians also visited the Lyon Opera House, Roman sites in Vienne, Rocher de Naye in the Swiss Alps, Chillon Castle in Montreux, and the Picasso Museum in Nice. Bass trombonist Conrad Szuka ’12 says “the greatest part of tour was how receptive our audiences were at all of the festivals. They had so much fun in the audience and that, in turn, inspired us to play our very best!” A live compact disc, Beyond The Sea, was released in September 2011 and given as a gift to over 300 alumni at the Volunteer Leadership Summit. The ensemble has now traveled over 10,000 miles and performed 30 concerts in Europe.
A combo, Jazz Dispatch, improvisation lab, private improvisation lessons, and two jazz history courses are also part of the jazz curriculum. Students may elect to earn a B.A. in Music degree and focus on jazz through carefully structured elective choices.