Founding members of The University of Southern Mississippi Jazz Sextet will revisit their musical roots at the Jazz Sextet Reunion performance Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center.
“The formation of this group is significant, because it is the only combo that has run continuously since its inception,” said Larry Panella, associate professor of music and director of the jazz studies program at Southern Miss. “When the first sextet members put the group together, no one had any idea that it would continue to blossom and flourish for years afterward.”
The original sextet was started in 1999 by students in the jazz combo program. Ten years later, the sextet remains an outlet for students to create to perform, arrange and compose music in keeping with the tradition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, one of the most famous jazz sextets.
After leaving from Southern Miss, the original sextet members have each established accomplished professional music careers. Returning home to Southern Miss is Tom Luer, saxophone; Dr. Alexander Pershounin, bass; Art Ruangtip, trombone; David Rodriguez, trumpet; Tina Catalanotto, drums and Darrell Harvard, guitar.
“They’ve all gone off and done various different things in their careers,” said bass player and sophomore Joey Panella. “We’re excited to have them back and see how they’ve changed over the years.”
Currently, Tom Luer tours with British-American singer Englebert Humperdink when he is not performing around Los Angeles. In 2007, he toured with actress and recording artist Queen Latifah. The original saxophonist in the group, Luer looks forward to returning to the place where he got his start.
“We all came together from very different walks of life, and the relationship formed outside the music was the most memorable aspect of working together,” Luer said.
The reunion concert will also feature a special performance by the Southern Miss Faculty Jazz Combo and current Sextet members. As anticipation for the concert grows, other former members from across the country are making plans to attend.
“The sextet taught me that great music and camaraderie can be created despite diverse backgrounds and talent,” said Ruangtip, band director for Sachse High School in Sachse, Texas. He also co-leads his own band in performances throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Jazz was our common thread during rehearsals, concerts and even late nights at IHOP across the street. Southern Miss provided me a great music education that was challenging yet positive and supportive.”
This event is free and open to the public. For more information on the Jazz Sextet Reunion, call 601.266.6121 or visit www.usm.edu/arts.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.