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Versatile jazz-rock band at UWRF readies for end-of-semester concert

Falcon News Service

April 5, 2017

Among the various choral and instrumental ensembles housed in the Department of Music at UW-River Falls is the Falcon Band, a small but versatile group that plays jazz-rock.

The Falcon Band consists of nine members: Mitch Rand, Jordan Tucker and Amanda Weber on saxophone, Taylor Graham and Julian Manley on trumpet, Ben Coleman on trombone, Zach Tate on guitar, Tessa Bloch on bass and Evan McLean on drums. The band, although small, can play a range of music. With only six different instruments, this band can do more than most.

Falcon Band members have one primary instrument, but that does not mean it’s their only instrument. With only six different instruments, it may seem that the band has a limit to what they can play. However, members of the band can if need be play other instruments to help widen the music selection.

McLean said there is no limit to what the band can play.

“Everyone in there is super flexible in being able to hop over and play other instruments,” he said. “Last semester, we played a song that required bass clarinet and either flute or clarinet, and our two saxophone players played those.”

To help learn new instruments, the band has a director who is able to help with any instrument students decide to pick up. Craig Hara, director of the Falcon Band, has an extensive background in music. He has performed in Europe, North America and Japan. His primary instrument is trumpet, but he also knows how to play many other instruments. He is part of the River Falls Brass at UWRF and a conductor for the UWRF Symphonic Wind Band and St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra.

The way that Hara interacts with the band is very involved. Because he knows how to play many different instruments, if students are having trouble learning a new piece, he says he likes to show instead of tell.

“Sometimes it’s just faster for me to say, ‘Let me show you this,’” Hara said.

Members of the band also get to choose what they want to play and don’t always play what is found in sheet music. Hara said that he gives students just a rough chart of what the music looks like and then they make it their own.

“A fair component in our book is also a bunch of stuff that is bare skeleton guides to tunes and then it’s up to the band to figure out how to make it work, which is what most of us do in real life,” he said.

He said he doesn’t want students to come into his class to learn how to be “monkeys” and then go look for a job, because that is not real life. He wants students to be able to improvise their music and, when things go wrong, they are able to fix it because that is what they learned in Falcon Band.

“One of the main goals of the band is to give students the opportunity to work on their stuff,” Hara said. “I mean, I encourage everybody in that band to make their mistakes in Falcon Band. Try your stuff and fail at it because that is the only way we figure out what to do.”

Bloch said that is the reason she joined Falcon Band in the first place.

“I wanted some experience with reading, like, lead sheets and improvising and stuff like that, and also it’s a good way to introduce yourself with jazz if you’re not super familiar with it,” she said. “It’s a really supportive environment.”

Any student from any major can join the Falcon Band, but students must try out. They must be able to read music, understand theory, understand harmony and know how to use the instrument in a way that is up to the level of the band.

The Falcon Band’s end-of-semester concert is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building. The concert is free and open to the public.