June 30, 2016
Alumni who play together, stay together - which is why this is the 31st year of The Criterions Annual Reunion Concert at West Chester University. The Criterions alumni from the 1960s through the 2000s take the stage in Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall on Thursday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m. The concert as well as their daytime rehearsals both Wednesday and Thursday (beginning each day at 10 a.m.) are free and open to the public.
Jim Sullivan '65 is one of the many graduates of the University's School of Music to return to campus each summer to play jazz and big band music in harmony - after only a day and a half of practice together. The former professor and head of the West Chester University School of Music plays keyboard and says, "If you don't have improvisation, you don't have jazz. Jazz is a living organism."
He credits trombonist Lee Southall '64 not only for establishing the reunion and concert but also for the concert's continued appeal to audiences. Southall organizes the arrangements and has directed the band nearly every year, only recently sharing the baton with several other capable alumni and WCU's Jazz Studies Coordinator, Marc Jacoby, who directs the students in the current Criterions.
"We all return to play the music that we love and that unites us no matter our age or occupation or what we have experienced in life," Southall says.
Jacoby notes that the Criterions reunion coincides intentionally with the WCU Summer Jazz Camp, a week-long residential program he directs that runs from Sunday, July 17, through Friday, July 22, this year.
Students in the camp's honors track have the opportunity to open for the Crites, and several former Criterions teach workshops at the camp, along with WCU School of Music faculty.
The Criterions student band has been active on campus since the 1920s, when it was established as a dance band, making it the longest-running university jazz band in the country.
Sullivan says even at the first rehearsal each year, at 10 a.m. on the Wednesday before the concert, "The guys could just have a concert right then and there and people would enjoy it. They're all that good."
And they're all that jazz.