Wesleyan bands to perform at Arts Center

Kyle Andrews

ELKINS — “I started on alto saxophone at age eleven,” says Kyle Andrews, who will conduct two West Virginia Wesleyan College student bands in concert at the Randolph County Community Arts Center (RCCAC) at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“I switched to drums about a year later, taught myself by copying from records, and took my first lessons as a senior in high school. My early influences were Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, and Joe Chambers. Those were the drummers on my first three jazz records and I stole everything I could from them. They remain in my car’s CD player today,” he said.

“The first professional live jazz I saw was [drummer] Roger Humphries’ weekly session in Pittsburgh during my first week of college,” Andrews recalls. “I vividly remember walking into that club and being absolutely astonished by the sound and energy coming from the stage. I went back nearly every week for the next three years, just to stare at Roger as he played.”

An assistant professor of music at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Andrews grew up in Shepherdstown and earned a bachelor of music education at Wesleyan, where he studied with drummer Ken Tackett, who “has a really deep knowledge of the music” (and who once said of jazz, “It’s a very complex river, but who knows where it’s going to flow?”). Andrews later earned a master of music in jazz studies from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where he “listened really intently to bootleg recordings of Roger Humphries and another favorite of mine, Byron Landham.”

Looking back over his career, Andrews credits “a series of monthly gigs last year with saxophonist Richie Cole in Carnegie, Pennsylvania,” as being “really meaningful for me. I remember in high school watching videos of him playing at [New York’s] Village Vanguard and being blown away by his energy. Getting the chance to work with him and play his music years later was a really special moment for me.”

Andrews has also performed in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New York City, Bethesda, and the greater north-central West Virginia area. Arts Center patrons will recall his many performances there with combos under the leadership of guitarist Seth Maynard.

Andrews has served as a clinician and adjudicator in and around the state of West Virginia and his articles and reviews have been published in Modern Drummer Magazine. With interests and pursuits in both performance and scholarship, Andrews hopes to help students not only perform at their highest possible level, but also to think critically about their relationship with music and the world around them.

“In modern jazz music the drummer is really the conductor,” Andrews said. “The role of time keeper is of course the first priority, but the drummer also shapes melody, each solo, and the song as a whole. There is an immense amount of responsibility on the drummer to make each section lead to the next in a logical and moving way. As an educator, I strive to help my students reach the music and the story behind the music with a sense of reverence and respect. I believe in learning by doing, and always going back to the records for answers. My students know that the answer to most questions they have for me is some form of, ‘What did so-and-so play on the record?'”

The Wesleyan Big Band will play “Bemsha Swing,” “Airegin,” a couple of American songbook tunes sung by Olivia Insani, and several Wes Montgomery numbers (“Naptown Blues” and “Caravan”) featuring guitarist Jonathan DiGiulian.

After intermission, the Wesleyan Afro Cuban Ensemble will play a set of genres from Danzon to Cha Cha to Son Montuno. The tunes will include “Estoy Como Nunca,” “Tu No Me Quieres,” and “Indestructible.” Soloists will include Adam Bleil on trumpet, Thomas Keating, trombone, Patrick Withers on tenor saxophone, and bassist Chris McGraw.

For reservations, call 304-637-2355.