Jazz Spring 2024

Ursinus Jazz Ensemble performs at Troubles End Brewing on Oct 11, 2023

Isa Martinez-Robles (ismartinezrobles@ursinus.edu)

Gregory Dervinis (Grdervenis@ursinus.edu)


Vol. 5

A rhythmic countdown begins and shortly thereafter, mellifluous sounds resonate from the basement of Bomberger. Among the musical ensembles at Ursinus, the Jazz Ensemble stands out. Every week, performers gather under the instruction of Professor Brian Langdon and run through several pieces to practice for major performances over the semester. He splits his time between this Ursinus ensemble and various ones at Boyertown School District where he is also employed. In both of these settings, the end goal is for musicians to improve their abilities and forge connections beyond academic interests. The ensemble consists of three sections but some musicians choose to step behind the microphone and sing for certain charts. 

It is open to any and all majors – with a current majority of non-music majors. Among these is saxophonist Levi Fritz ’26, a Computer Science major who values this ensemble for what it allows him to do, saying, “Having a musical outlet like this is nice. It allows me to use the skills that I built up in public school.” It’s a self-validating experience that allows for him to connect outside of the classroom and improve his musical abilities – certainly a shared perspective. 

A crucial component of this musical improvement is generous improvisation and, at Ursinus, it draws people in. It’s common for each set to feature at least one chart with improvisation.

The performers look forward to their gig at Trouble’s End on March 20 as well as an upcoming concert in Bomberger on April 26. The former is best described as a warm, intimate atmosphere where musicians put their skills in the spotlight in the midst of great food and their friends. 

Students are drawn to performing in the ensemble for various reasons. Describing Professor Langdon as amicable is no stretch. Every session, he calls the musicians friends and often stops to provide commentary on individual roles. His suggestions often lean into the tonality of the genre, phrasing emotions, sounds, rhythms with vigorous onomatopoeias and movements. While this is quite a contrast from most instructor’s styles, it comes across to his players.

“I am a student centered educator where I always value student input into my classroom,” Langdon says. “I welcome suggestions both in terms of musical literature as well as effectiveness of my teaching. If I’m not reaching each of my students, I feel like there is so much missed potential.  I strive to give my students the most amount of opportunities they can have to increase not only their musicianship, but also their perspectives on life. Music at Ursinus College is incredible because it allows both Music majors and non to participate in an elite ensemble. The opportunities here are truly unique.”

Langdon says, “I have always loved music but didn’t really find my way until late into high school. I have always been inspired and mentored by fantastic educators. It’s such a job to be able to give back to my students now as an educator because of the efforts of my teachers. To combine that with music performance has been incredible and I love having the opportunity to work with the students at Ursinus to create lasting memories cemented in high musicality experiences.”

 With a friendly instructor, encouragement for improvisation, and a constructive environment, the Ursinus Jazz Ensemble makes its place in the lives of its members.

Ursinus Jazz Ensemble performs at Troubles End Brewing on Oct 11, 2023
Ursinus Jazz Ensemble performs at Troubles End Brewing on Oct 11, 2023