Marty Majorowicz stepping into new shoes as this year’s Big Band director
Since the 70s, MacEwan’s musically-inclined students have played in a “Big Band.” A Big Band is an ensemble of musicians arranged into four sections. These sections include saxophonists, trumpists, trombonists, and rhythm-based instrumentalists like guitarists, pianists, and cellists.
MacEwan’s original Big Band was directed by Rick Garn. But, the Big Band has evolved with MacEwan’s growth. 2023 marks a new change for the Big Band with someone new stepping into the director role.
The director, Marty Majorowicz, notes that the development and expansion of the music degree has impacted the Big Band, as well. “The biggest thing is now that there’s a degree program here in the arts,” says Majorowicz. “The students have a couple more years to hone their skills.”
Majorowicz was able to play in the band for three years, but students are now able to participate in Big Band for up to four years.
It is Dec. 5, and the third floor of Allard Hall buzzes with energy — a cocktail mix of nervousness, excitement, and anticipation.
The rehearsal hall in which Majorowicz sits is spacious, but its size is small compared to the Triffo Theatre in which the Big Band performs. The performance’s music sets have been chosen to demonstrate a wide range of musical styles.
“The kind of music we’ll be playing is varied from swing to Latin, to more funky stuff,” says Majorowicz. The band will play instrumental pieces, but will also include three pieces sung by a vocalist.
For Majorowicz and the Big Band’s ensemble, the performance has been a long time coming. The band has been rehearsing since September, but has performed for MacEwan’s open house and convocation ceremonies.
Based on the feedback the band has received, Majorowicz suspects that attendees will enjoy the Big Band concert’s inclusion of diverse music. He says, “I think that a lot of different people, different walks of life, different musical tastes, will enjoy it, and maybe find something new that they’ve not heard before.”
June Ulloa Neilson and Liam Shearer, members of the Big Band ensemble, look forward to the concert. Both students have ample experience performing for the Big Band.
“I think that a lot of different people, different walks of life, different musical tastes, will enjoy it, and maybe find something new that they’ve not heard before.”
Marty Majorowicz, Director of the Big Band
Ulloa Nielson is a first-year student, meaning the performance will be her first time playing with MacEwan’s Big Band. But, don’t be misled; Ulloa Nielson has years of experience under her belt. She played Big Band in high school and performed in the Littlebirds Big Band.
“I think here, the faculty band and a lot of people who are in the band today play this really advanced music,” they say. “. . . it’s special to me to finally be in this band and to have a full performance. It’s really exciting.”
Shearer is similarly well-versed in Big Band and has performed in them since high school. MacEwan’s upcoming concert will be his ninth concert. For Shearer, his experience gives him the opportunity to mentor other students.
“I know how to help people,” he says. “If people are stressed out, I’ve been there already.”
Shearer’s appreciation for Big Band comes from the act of creating music as an ensemble. “It’s definitely very interesting to be in such a bigger group, all working together to make music together,” says Shearer.
Ulloa Neilson believes that MacEwan’s Big Band differs from other Big Bands due to the connectedness among students. “You know, in the professional world, Big Bands have one or two . . . rehearsals, and then they’re putting on a show,” they say. “But, we rehearse twice a week, we get to know each other, we’re already around each other all the time.”
“I think it’s really, especially with Marty coming in and sort of switching things up a little, definitely a new exploratory phase of the Big Band,” says Ulloa Neilson.
Shearer admits that the Big Band is progressing towards a new vision. “Ray [former Big Band director] said . . . , ‘You know what, I spent my time here. I took it where I wanted it to go. So, now it’s kind of Marty’s turn to have a vision of where we’re going.’”
Aside from incorporating more assortment in chosen music pieces, Majorowicz believes that the Big Band should focus on reaching out to high school students. Being a teacher, Majorowicz has experience guiding high school students toward performing in Big Band.
“I would like to really make sure that we are in touch with the high schools and community bands,” says Majorowicz. “. . . I would like to continue the tradition of outreach to community and high school bands and help you kind of enrich the community physically.”
The big night arrives, and the buzz of excitement once contained on the third floor of Allard Hall makes its way down to the first floor and all the way into the Triffo Theatre.
Kicking off the evening, the Big Band played a catchy jazz tune followed by a Bossa Nova melody that had the audience swaying in their seats.
The selected soloists filled the theatre with pleasant notes, showcasing their talent and hard work to the audience. It was all the more satisfying when the band played in unison once more.
The MacEwan Youth Jazz Orchestra (MYJO), formed by Majorowicz and associate professor Craig Brenan, later joined the stage in the show and played a few songs. The MYJO is a group of high school students nominated by their teachers who are dedicated to their passion for music.
The formation and nurturing of the program emphasize Majorowicz’s determination for forming a collaboration consisting of high school and community bands and MacEwan’s bands.
It is refreshing to see the passion each student pours into their work, and it is evident in the way they played music that night.
Stepping into his new role gracefully, Majorowicz entertained the crowd with witty jokes between the performances. He announced that this year’s performance was the Big Band’s most attended show of all previous years’ shows. Perhaps, the show’s success is an affirmation for Majorowicz that he can successfully carry the torch and lead the Big Band to new heights for years to come.