Jazzy evening brings university and community together


Brynn Lundy/The Lion's Roar

Guest artist Steve Sigmund, who has served as lead trombonist for the Ray Charles Orchestra for 17 years, performs. The university music department partnered with the Hammond Rotary Club to host “An Evening of Jazz“ to raise funds for the university.

“An Evening of Jazz” welcomed Hammond community members to raise funds and experience entertainment provided by the university’s jazz faculty and ensemble.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, the Rotary Club of Hammond partnered with the university’s music department to host “An Evening of Jazz” from 5-8 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. The event was a dual fundraiser for the Rotary Club’s scholarship fund and the upcoming Bill Evans Jazz Festival.

The jazz faculty opened and closed the evening with guest vocalist and university alumna Elizabeth Messina Floyd. The University Jazz Ensemble performed from 6-7 p.m., featuring guests Austin Dugas-Higdon, Fall 2019 alumnus, and Steve Sigmund, lead trombonist of the Ray Charles Orchestra for 17 years. The University Jazz Ensemble’s performance included a sneak peek of the first concert of the semester that will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Samantha Spalitta, fund development and events chair for Hammond Rotary Club, described how the event was formulated and why Hammond Rotary helped sponsor it.

“We partnered with Michael Brothers, who is the head of the jazz department here at Southeastern,” explained Spalitta. “We decided to do ‘An Evening of Jazz’ to raise money for his jazz festival that’s coming up. We decided to partner with him because we really think it’s important to support Southeastern and support the music department.”

Individual admission tickets were $25 each, but members of the community could purchase a private table for $250. Guests could also purchase a bottle of champagne for $15 and one of three meal options.

Spalitta elaborated that all the funds raised from the event go towards the university.

“All the funds are going to, for this, part of it is going to Rotary’s scholarship fund,” explained Spalitta. “Then, the other part is going directly to the music department, but our scholarship fund goes to Southeastern in general. So, 100% of the proceeds of this event do go to Southeastern overall.”

Michael Brothers, director of jazz and percussion studies and director of the University Jazz Ensemble, expressed gratitude towards Hammond Rotary for helping with the event to raise funds for the Bill Evans Jazz Festival, which will be held from April 1-4.

“We’ve been working very hard to make it not only an important event for the music department, but another big community event as well that, come April—we all think of the Strawberry Festival—I want everyone to think of the Jazz Festival as well,” shared Brothers.

Brothers described what the Bill Evans Jazz Festival will entail.

“We have great concerts,” said Brothers. “It’s a four-day event. The evening concerts, several alumni come back and play in a big band. Both our university groups play, our guests artist with the faculty, just really great evening concerts that I encourage you to come and see.”