Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 04/01/15
 

ABOVE: Neil Wetzel, associate professor of music, in the classroom.

 
 

Neil Wetzel Coordinating Efforts to Boost Jazz in the Community

Neil Wetzel’s passion for jazz continues to spread across the Lehigh Valley and beyond. For the past four years, the associate professor of music and director of jazz studies at Moravian College, has been an integral part of a prominent regional arts event— the SteelStacks High School Jazz Band Showcase.  A specially produced television program spotlighting the high school jazz groups will be broadcast on WFMZ-TV Channel 69 on Saturday, April 4 on at 9:00 p.m.
 
The showcase features local high school jazz ensembles that participated in three preliminary rounds of performances. They were evaluated by judges that were coordinated by Wetzel, and the top groups were invited to a finals round. In the final round, top high school jazz soloists were awarded full scholarships to attend Moravian College’s Summer Jazz Camp @ Moravian.
 
"I am amazed at the high level of performance I hear at the SteelStacks Showcase, the young jazz musicians in the Lehigh Valley are remarkable,” says Wetzel. “It is evident that our local music educators work diligently and tirelessly to inspire these young people through jazz and to promote the legacy of this great American art form."

The three top rated bands from the finals will also get the chance to meet and work with (via an educational music clinic) groups featured at ArtsQuest RiverJazz Festival later this spring. In 2015, the groups leading workshops with the high school students include Spyrogyra, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
 
As education director of the showcase, Wetzel creates parameters for the showcase, creating rules, policies and evaluation criteria. He is also the head judge and helps to emcee part of the Showcase.

"I commend SteelStacks and their partners for their support and recognition of the importance of arts education,” he says. It is programs like these that focus on creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving through the arts, three aspects that cannot be easily measured in standardized tests."
 
Wetzel will also lead an All-Star jazz ensemble made up of the best students from each of the high school groups. This elite jazz band will rehearse throughout the summer at Moravian College and then have a featured performance at Musikfest on August 8 in the MusikFest Café.

Since its inception in 2011, the has been produced and presented through a partnership between ArtsQuest, Moravian College, WFMZ-TV and corporate sponsors King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul, LLC.
 
Last fall, Wetzel was honored with a "Tribute to the Arts Award" from the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission. Wetzel was chosen for this award because of his “enthusiastic work as a professional musician and as an educator in the field of jazz. An outstanding saxophonist, Wetzel directs the Moravian College BIG Band, and teaches saxophone at Moravian College. He recently released a new CD "Cowboys in Capes" which is a musical autobiography of sorts for Wetzel, who grew up in rural southeastern Lehigh County.

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