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Jazz enthusiasts

IUP jazz enthusiasts from classes as early as 1954 and as recent as 2001 got together last fall.

A lot of toe tapping and head bobbing marked IUP’s Alumni Jazz Weekend in November. More than thirty graduates spanning six decades returned to campus to rehearse and play in a concert.

Kevin Eisensmith ’78, IUP’s Jazz Ensemble director, organized the event in response to inquiries from fellow graduates eager to return to their former stomping grounds.

Gary Bird and Dan DiCicco directed the alumni band. Bird began the Jazz Band and directed it from 1977 to 1987 and directed the Jazz Ensemble from 1987 to 1997.  DiCicco led the Mellowmen, IUP’s original jazz band, from 1972 to 1987 and was director of Bands at IUP.

The assembled alumni band comprised band directors, educators, business professionals, and retirees.  Participants had several opportunities to rehearse and socialize. Laughter accompanied the great music during Saturday’s rehearsal, but the levity gave way to reverence when DiCicco addressed the group.

“My job up here was like a dream,” DiCicco said.  “I couldn’t have been happier, and it was all because I had a job I loved.”

DiCicco, who now lives six months a year in central Florida and six months in Pennsylvania, considers Indiana his home.  He graduated from Indiana State Teachers College in 1954 and came back to teach two years later, when the school was small but growing.  He became close with students, spending a lot of time rehearsing and performing with them.  He credits the years he spent with eighteen-to-twenty-two-year-olds for his youthful attitude.

As an alumnus and professor emeritus, DiCicco said he is proud of the university’s success and  pleased that IUP has not only maintained but actually surpassed its high level of excellence from earlier years.  According to him, the Music Department stands out because it is a complete department, offering courses from voice to tuba and specializing in music education.  He thinks IUP is also unique because of the way its alumni return to participate in activities like the Alumni Jazz Weekend.  One such alumnus is Rick DiMuzio ’86. DiMuzio was guest soloist during the students’ concert Saturday.  The performance included a piece he composed and called “A.S.A.P.”

Since 1998, DiMuzio has taught at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, both in Boston.  He said he tries to incorporate IUP’s liberal arts approach in teaching his own students. “There’s more to life than pop and rock music,” he said.

For DiMuzio, meeting his wife (Jennifer Tabler DiMuzio ’88, M’90) and being in the marching band and jazz ensemble were the highlights of his time at IUP.

“Cogswell feels exactly the same,” he said. “We are the ones who change.”

Emily Wells is a junior Journalism major at IUP and a staff member in the university’s Publications Office.