By Mae Kristy Calacal
Before the show even began, the auditorium of Mayo Concert Hall was already teeming with life. The room was filled with bright lights, which accompanied the chatter of eager audience members waiting for the performance to begin.
As more students and community members filed in and took their seats, band members poured onto the stage. When the lights dimmed, the hall was silent and conductor John Anastasio (’69) took the stage. For the rest of the night, all the performers were in sync with one another.
On Saturday, Feb. 9, the Alumni Jazz Band brought music to the College.
The opening song, “Skyliner” by Charlie Barnett, featured deep bass chords which complimented the higher pitch of the horn chorus. Anastasio gave a brief introduction before each song. He explained that the title of “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” by Brooks Bowman, which was produced in 1934, was inspired by the Norwegian fairy tale of the same name.
While he got heads swaying and feet tapping, the conductor garnered some smiles and laughs from the crowd when he gave an overview of the performers, most of whom were alumni from the College.
“There’s the breakdown of our personnel tonight,” he said. “Hopefully our personnel does … not break down tonight.”
After “Easy to Love” by Sammy Nestico, Anastasio picked up his clarinet for a number by Benny Goodman. He swayed to the rhythm as his fingertips danced over the keys.
The members of the band look up to their conductor and drew musical inspiration from each other. Saxophone player Ryan Galik (’18) said that Anastasio was a musical influence for him, along with fellow saxophone player and John Bachalis (’68).
Galik, who was a music education major, recalls playing his saxophone every semester in Kendall Hall at the College. After graduating, he began teaching music at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamesburg, New Jersey. Originally a trombone player, Galik switched to the saxophone in the fifth grade. He admits being intimidated at first, since the saxophone has more keys, but he has loved playing it ever since and loves being able to play a wide array of genres, from jazz to classical music.
“It’s cool to explore all these things my instrument can do,” Galik said.
Jeff Tamburrino (’88), a member of the alumni association, is a fan of jazz music and a supporter of the music program at the College. He expressed his praise for the band.
“I’m impressed with their musicianship, because they’ve only been practicing for a couple of weeks,” he said.
The relationships between the band members was not the only apparent connection that night — both students and others from College community gathered to support their friends.