University Jazz Band tributes Panuska in concert

Commentary by

Jack Vander Laan

At the start of every school year, a call sheet for The University’s music groups is written, detailing the dates of the various concerts throughout the school year. Those attentive would notice that this year’s spring concert for the Jazz Band would take place on April Fool’s day. As such, Cheryl Boga, Performance Music’s director and conductor, thought it fitting to play funny songs for the occasion. Jazz pieces with titles such as “The Day in the Life of a Fool” and “April in Paris” would have been played for the audience.

However, the beloved former president, the Rev. Joseph Allan Panuska, S.J., died Feb. 28. In honor of his memory and commitment to the school, the Jazz Band’s concert itinerary was changed. Altering the concert with half as much time to prepare the songs would normally be difficult. But this was no problem for The University Jazz Band, as they all worked hard to prepare the new songs for the concert.

On the night of the concert, the Houlihan Center was packed more than it had ever been during my two years at The University. Family, friends, coworkers and those who knew Panuska filled the seats. A few Alumni even returned to play with the students, adding an extra player to each section. Their skill made the concert one to remember, pulling off amazing solos using their years of experience.

A collection of songs adored by Panuska during his time at The University were selected for the concert. As the concert was a celebration of his life, all the songs were uplifting and cheerful. Appropriately, an arrangement of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration was played as the opening song. Panuska enjoyed Ray Charles, so the band played a few of his songs, such as Kansas City and Let the Good Times Roll. Other songs that he enjoyed such as “A String of Pearls” and “Blue Moon” were also played. The lyrics to Blue Moon were also changed to relate to Panuska, furthering the connection he has to both the song and the school. Midway through the concert, the Alumni present and Cheryl Boga performed a piece called Ursa Major Blues, in honor of Panuska. Members of the Choir also volunteered to help with the concert, singing “Yesterday” and The University’s Alma Mater.

The concert was a huge success. All the sections sounded full of life and the halls of Houlihan echoed with the tribute to Panuska. Multiple phone calls were made in response to the concert, telling Boga how great it was and how thankful the caller was for the Jazz Band’s dedication. I have played in many concerts throughout my life, but none held as much significance to the school as did this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *