Performing Ensembles at StFX:
Combos: There are 9 to 12 ‘combos’ or small groups, ranging from 4-7 players. Each are coached by a faculty member, and rehearse at least once per week. The emphasis is on learning to improvise and play jazz.
The Guitar Ensemble, directed by Kevin Brunkhorst, consists of five guitars plus bass and drums. It plays charts written by students and Prof. Brunkhorst. The music can be difficult but interesting, ranging from straight-ahead swing to progressive rock and fusion. The focus is on reading, lead playing, and ensemble sound. Admission to this is by audition only, and is separate from combo credit. Videos of recent Guitar Ensemble performances can be found on YouTube by following this link.
The Latin Band, under the direction of Terry O’Mahoney, plays salsa, Afro-Cuban, and other kinds of Latin jazz. It usually has several horns plus a complete rhythm section (guitar, bass, keyboard), including several percussionists.
The Nonet has five horns plus a rhythm section of guitar, piano, bass, and drums. They perform charts written by students of MUS420 Arranging, faculty members, and professional writers. It’s partially for the players to learn and play more challenging music, and partially for the composers, some of whom are in the ensemble, to hear their work. The Nonet is not offered every year.
The StFX Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Ryan Billington, is an auditioned student ensemble that performs a wide range of popular music featuring songwriters, jazz and a variety of styles. Ensemble membership includes vocal and instrumental majors, and students from the arts, science, business and education faculties. The group performs in two or three concerts per academic year in collaboration with other performing groups and occasionally for other events.
The Vocal Jazz Ensembles, led by Ryan Billington, comprise four to eight singers plus a rhythm section of piano, guitar, bass and drums. These ensembles are open to all voice majors and any instrumentalists who like to sing. Any university student is welcome to audition. The ensemble focuses on jazz styles and also fuses jazz with funk, pop, and rock styles.