UTSA Jazz Ensemble strikes a chord

Featuring performers with nicknames such as Butter Smooth James and Wild Bill, the UTSA Jazz Ensemble fully embraces the blasé mentality of the American music genre. Much like jazz music, the UTSA Jazz Ensemble has transformed itself while drawing from influences of national and local cultures.


Dr. Utah Hamrick, who moved to Texas six years ago to pursue his doctorate at UT Austin, came to UTSA in 2005 to lead the Jazz band. Since then he has taken on several different roles in the music department, including Jazz Ensemble director.


“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, direct a college big band,” Hamrick said. “It’s been my goal since I was in college.”


 The director who specializes in the electric bass recalled the best memories of his time in San Antonio, “Mostly it’s been being able to see the band get better each year. Building it each year and getting better, and seeing some of these players who have been here the whole five years progress, that’s been the thing I think of the most.”


Brandon Fletcher, mainly an alto saxophonist but who can also play the entire saxophone section, showcases the professional yet comfortable demeanor often times required of the instrument- as well as of jazz. “When we have a jazz concert, it’s all about having fun and relaxing,” Fletcher Said. “Jazz is more relaxed. Its how you feel and have a great time.”


Fletcher, like many of his fellow performers, identifies with the enjoyable aspect of jazz as well as a growing desire to improve technique. “Got to have fun,” said piano performance major Derek Adam. “I don’t want to say it’s not serious, but you got to have fun.” 


UTSA does not have a jazz major, but that could change should Dr. Hamrick and his jazz ensemble continue to develop and promote jazz music at UTSA. “We’re still in the process of developing a jazz major, but we’ve been trying to go toward that,” said Hamrick. “We just started offering a jazz certificate for music majors last year; we’re building up the interest in jazz trying to get a good solid program going.”


In addition to their second performance of the semester at the Recital Hall on April 13th, the UTSA Jazz Ensemble is scheduled to play Fiesta Under the Stars on April 23rd– an official event of Fiesta San Antonio. Fiesta Under the Stars is a musical event that aims to showcase the talents of students and faculty of The University of Texas at San Antonio Music Department.