Gig with a Superstar: Doc Severinsen Wows the Crowd at IUP, and Music Students Are Part of the Show

Posted on 9/22/2014 2:21:11 PM

Doc Severinsen performing onstage during IUP concert

Legendary trumpeter Doc Severinsen opened the 2014–15 Lively Arts Ovations season on Tuesday, September 16, with an incredible show he invited students to be part of.

The Grammy-award winner, known the world over for his musical acts on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, invited faculty, alumni, and music students Alexander Price (guitar), Richard Firestone (saxophone), and Nick Adams (bass) to take the stage as the Keystone Big Band to perform with him and Kansas City-based singer Vanessa Thomas.

Rehearsals and performance were a one-of-a-kind experience, says Price. “It was exciting to see how players of that caliber run rehearsals when there are only two days until the concert.

“Doc Severinsen comes from a totally different era of jazz, and the way he dictates musical style shows that. I learned a ton about how he perceives the style and roles of each instrument, and it’s helped me to develop my own ideas about jazz and improvisation.

“Playing in this concert was the most fun I’ve had in my life,” says Price. “Moments like this are what make me strive to be a musician.”

In addition, 21 students were selected to sing “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” as the IUP Chorale with Thomas: Alyssa Boxer, Wesley Caulkins, Jay Clinton, Ed Dorner, Riley Droney, Mariana Gonzalez, Lydia Hassell, Afton Herring, Nick Hudak, Amber Leitsch, Tyler Morgan, Katie Smith, Kelly Snyder, Mason Stiver, Lucas Sweeney, Nicole Tyger, Devon Vaow, Anna Very, Mackenzie Watkins, Hanna Wilson, and Jessica Zelenack. Professor Ryan Beeken assembled the chorale.

After the concert, the fun headed backstage, where the brothers of Phi Mu Alpha music fraternity serenaded Severinsen. A video of the serenade posted on the Lively Arts Facebook page has been popular.

“Doc Severinsen is easily one of the most popular and recognizable trumpeters in the modern era, and to have him on campus was fantastic,” says music education major Orren Vigo, who is the vice president of Phi Mu Alpha and organized the serenade.

Vigo also served as Doc’s “runner” during his visit in Indiana. “When you talk with him, he treats everything you say as the most important words he’s ever heard,” says Vigo.

Professor of trumpet Kevin Eisensmith ’78 assembled and organized the Keystone Big Band and describes Doc’s visit to IUP as “life changing” for the students, faculty, and alumni who got to hear him speak and play and perform with this living legend.

—by Caitlin Birch, intern, and Deborah Klenotic, photo by Keith Boyer, IUP Communications and Marketing