The first International Jazz Day got celebrated on April 30 of 2012. In November of 2011, the UNESCO General Conference announced about establishment of a new holiday. The goal for approving the holiday was “an increase in the extent of acknowledgement by international community of the educational role of jazz as a power promoting peace, unity, dialogue, and extending contacts between people.”
The SUSU Jazz Orchestra has long since existed at South Ural State University. Director of the Orchestra is irreplaceable tutor Georgy Anokhin, a flutist, solo instrumentalist, composer, and prize winner of regional, all-Russia and international jazz festivals. He told us about the beginning of his career at the university, about the composition of the SUSU Jazz Orchestra, and about the qualities one should have to become a member of the performance team.
How did you start teaching at the SUSU Jazz Orchestra?
— I came to SUSU about 18 years ago, back then I was invited by the SUSU President, German Vyatkin. The first thing that he asked me to do was composing an anthem for the university, but it took me some time to agree for this challenge. I have never written anthems, and it was a great responsibility. Nevertheless, I gave it a try, and in a week the job was done and approved by the Scientific Council. Now the entire university stands up when my composition is played! Then I was offered to organize an orchestra and I surely agreed. This activity had drawn me in: good musicians, concerts and contests – I had a heart for all of this, although I have never planned on working at an executive position. Without a doubt, I am happy that I became a tutor in the jazz orchestra.
Who is included in the jazz orchestra?
— Generally, they are students who obtained musical education but got enrolled to SUSU to master another profession. But those who have music in their hearts participate in the Student Spring contest, where I select students to my orchestra. I would like to note that I accept practically everyone who can play at least a little bit. We have a very strong rhythm section: a bass player, a drummer and a pianist. And I think that they are the best musicians in the city. They are our carcass, whereas each year we have 1-2 new orchestra members joining us. In this regard, we have frequent changes in the orchestra members’ names, but the orchestra exists, it performs, gets prize-winning places, and I can say that not every university has a jazz orchestra.
What qualities one should have in order to become a member of the Jazz Orchestra?
— The most important thing is to play a music instrument. What about the ability to hear, I think that if a person can hear a trolley car coming, he does have the ability to hear. And then I teach the person to play in various jazz styles and I try to explain to the person what is syncope, swing, etc. In a word, it doesn’t matter if a student has a ‘jazz’ background; he will get the knowledge he needs. And I can guarantee that by the time of graduation, the person will love jazz with all his heart! He will attend various jazz concerts, listen and comprehend what he’s listening.
What compositions do you perform more often?
— The main genre we play in is swing. And repertoire depends on the team’s wishes. I am lucky to be able to make arrangements adjusting for each musician’s capabilities. Besides, the program for which we prepare compositions is very important as well. There is a difference between concerts held on the occasion of March 8 or May 9. Generally, you can play practically any song in a jazz arrangement, excluding some special ‘classical’ songs. For example, once I was asked to perform the Temnaya Noch (The Dark Night) song in jazz style, but I rejected because I think that this song should be performed in its original version.
What professional goals do you and your team have?
— We constantly participate in various contests, not just at the city level but also in all-Russia scale. Last time we performed in Yekaterinburg and obtained Gran-Prix. Of course we will continue playing music, take part in competitions and win prizes. Music is freedom and creativity!
Do you celebrate professional holidays?
— We often hold concerts on the Jazz Day. For example, this year, the Chelyabinsk State Philharmony will be visited by Anatoly Kroll, a jazzman and People’s Artist of Russia who is going to celebrate his 75th anniversary this year. The best musicians of the city and the region are to come as well. This is how we are going to celebrate the professional holiday!