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The BIG Band at Moravian University, Bethlehem, PA

This blog contains direct quotes from websites as of 2023. Programs and policies do change, at colleges, from time to time, so please check with the colleges directly to receive any updates. These are not, necessarily, the biggest, best, or most popular programs at the college, but they are the ones that just “caught my eye” as unique, special, interesting, or just plain awesome. They are randomly listed in the blog section of this website. Enjoy!

I found this article on the Moravian website. It is an article by Therese Ciesinski that was published in the Moravian Magazine (Spring 2023 issue). Therese is an excellent writer! I edited it only for length. You can read the entire article on their website at:

“By any measure, 2022 was an extraordinary year for the Moravian student jazz ensemble known as the BIG Band. It’s not every day that student musicians release a CD or perform at a music festival. The achievements attest to the talents of the students but also to the excellent instruction of the music department’s faculty.

“Professor Neil Wetzel is the chair of the music department, director of jazz studies, and director of the BIG Band. He has taught at Moravian for more than 30 years. This year’s band is his dream team. ‘In fall 2021, this group came together,’ he says. ‘Don’t get me wrong, we’ve always had good musicians. These students are something special.’

“Frederick Younes has played trumpet with the band since 2018. In 2023, he will graduate with degrees in chemistry and music. ‘Going on tour and recording has been on Dr. Wetzel’s mind for years,’ he says. ‘Once he got our current band together, he kicked it into overdrive. It’s amazing to see how the band has grown.’

“Though big bands were at the height of popularity in the 1930s and ’40s, they have never gone completely out of style. In general, a big band has anywhere from 12 to 25 musicians and consists of four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and rhythm. The original bands played swing, a type of upbeat, energetic dance music.

“Moravian’s BIG Band performs swing and jazz standards as well as modern works. It has 30 student musicians, more than the norm, which speaks to the popularity of the ensemble. Jesse Leahey ’23, a music performance major, plays the tuba. ‘It’s unusual to have a tuba in a big band,’ Leahey says. ‘I asked to join, and Dr. Wetzel had a place for me. I’m really grateful to have the experience.’

“In the spring of 2022, the BIG Band recorded a CD of jazz tunes at Morningstar Studios in East Norriton Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Though there’s a great recording studio on campus, Wetzel wanted the students to have that experience at a professional studio. As for the group’s process for deciding on songs to record, he says, ‘We chose those they performed really well and a mix that could show their range.’”

Moravian University is one of the featured colleges in my new book (click image for additional information):

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