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WEST CHESTER — Once someone makes the Criterions at West Chester University, they are counted as a member for life, and even get to continue playing as part of them with the Criterions Alumni.
Annually, a group of the former members come together for the Criterions Reunion concert in the summer, with this year’s taking place tonight.
“We all return to play the music that we love and that unites us, no matter our age or occupation or what we have experienced in life,” said Lee Southall in a release.
Southall established the reunion and annual concert for all the alumni.
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The Criterions reunion concert typically features about 20 musicians — five saxophones, four or five trombones, five trumpets, a pianist, a bass guitarist and a drummer.
“We have a vast group, but it’s a matter of who shows up for the reunion,” Southall said. “We have more than what we need, so we take turns playing the various selections. For example, we have four alto players and we only use two at a time, so they take turns.”
The 20-or-so musicians practice for just two days — the day before and of the concert — for a total of nine hours.
“They’re good musicians, so they can almost sight-read most of the numbers,” Southall said. “The more difficult numbers we’ll go over two or three times or certain sections we have to rehearse. By the very fact they were in the ensemble as undergraduates, they had to be fairly good then to even get in the group. It was an honor to be selected by audition. For that fact, they’re all very fine musicians. Most of them only get better.”
The age range of the alumni participating in tonight’s concert ranges from a 1959 graduates all the way up to a 2015 graduate.
The concert coincides with the West Chester University Summer Jazz Camp, which is a week-long program run by the university’s Jazz Studies coordinator, Marc Jacoby. Some of the Criterions will teach workshops during the camp as well.
The students from the camp’s honors track will open for the Criterions alumni, playing a couple of selections.
The Criterions themselves will play some of the popular songs, including “Love for Sale,” “Just in Time” and Maynard Ferguson’s “People,” among many other music pieces.
The Criterions will also be honoring 1948 West Chester graduate Dave Heck, who celebrated his 60th class reunion in 2008 by playing with the group.
This year, Heck did something even bigger.
“Heck has donated his big band library to the university’s School of Music,” Southall said. “We have all that music of his that he wrote all those years that is going to be part of library for generations to come.”
The Criterions Reunion Concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall.