Faculty, guests jazzing up classic ‘Nutcracker’ De...

Faculty, guests jazzing up classic ‘Nutcracker’ Dec. 1

MTSU jazz faculty and special Nashville guests will jazz up a classic this Christmas season, performing “The Jazz Nutcracker” on Thursday, Dec. 1, as part of the 2011-12 MTSU Jazz Artist Series.

The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. in Hinton Hall in the university’s Wright Music Building.

Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky created “The Nutcracker Suite” for ballet in 1891. Jazz greats Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn transformed it into a nine-movement work for jazz orchestras for a 1960 Columbia Records release that has become a treasured classic.

“Performed in the Christmas season, this ballet score has become one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular pieces,” said Jamey Simmons, an associate professor of jazz studies and jazz trumpet at MTSU. “Because these (jazz) arrangements were written for the soloists in Duke’s band, it makes it fun to get inside their approach to performing.”

Performing “The Jazz Nutcracker” alongside Simmons on Dec. 1 will be MTSU jazz faculty members Don Aliquo on saxophone, Jim Ferguson on bass, Rick Mraz on saxophone and Derrek Phillips on drum set. Trombonists Roger Bissell and Greg Cox and trumpet players Matthew White and Steve Herrman, all jazz professionals from Nashville, will join them.

In addition, Matt Pivec, head of jazz studies at Butler University, will be the lead alto saxophone and clarinet player. The band also will feature a number of MTSU students and alumni.

During the performance, guest commentator Austin Bealmear, host of the syndicated radio show “Jazz on the Side,” will provide insights into the history of this jazz version of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

Tickets for the Dec. 1 show are $15 each for the general public. Admission is free for MTSU faculty, staff and students with proper ID.

For more MTSU School of Music concert information, call 615-898-2493 or visit and click on the “Concert Calendar” link.