Georgetown University’s department of performing arts hosted three professional musicians in its “Jazz Combos” and “Jazz Ensemble” classes to workshop performance techniques with students.
All three guests — Donny Albrecht, Kelton Norris and Leigh Pilzer — specialize in jazz. Albrecht, a freelance trumpet player, performs at venues across the United States, including the Boston Symphony Hall and the Louis Armstrong Museum; the Washington City Paper awarded Norris, a percussion specialist, the title of “Best Drummer” in 2016; and Pilzer, a saxophonist, plays regularly with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Paul Bratcher, an adjunct lecturer in the department of performing arts who teaches the “Jazz Combos” and “Jazz Ensemble” classes, invited the three musicians to come work with his students. During the class, students formed four groups — saxophone, trumpet, trombone and percussion — and the invited guests conducted master classes, or advanced seminar-style workshops, with each section.
Bratcher said the master classes focused on instructing students about a variety of different aspects of musical performance, from piece selection to stylistic interpretation.
“They worked on the music but also discussed more broadly how to approach playing different types of music,” Bratcher wrote to The Hoya. “After the master classes we got together and played the music and the look on the students’ faces said everything you needed to know about the impact these musicians had on our students.”
Lana Aguon (CAS ’24), a trombone player, said although she has played her instrument for over 15 years, the workshop taught her new techniques.
“Every musician is different and there’s always something new to learn. It’s very rare that one gets to learn from and play with people who have 30+ years of experience, and it’s always a great time to just listen to them play their instrument,” Aguon wrote to The Hoya.
Jaron Berman (CAS ’23), also a trombone player, said the specifics that Albrecht, Norris and Pilzer focused on during the sessions improved his eye for detail and helped refine his performance.
“It’s always great to be able to work with talented music professionals because they have such a wealth of experience,” Berman wrote to The Hoya. “For myself and the other brass players we focused on a lot of articulation techniques as well as how to develop the right style of play. We also got help emphasizing dynamics to better punctuate the piece.”
Grace Nuri (CAS ’26), a baritone saxophone player, said she tries to stay involved in music outside of Bratcher’s jazz classes because music plays an important role in her life.
“I have had a great experience with the Department of Performing arts as a part of Georgetown’s jazz ensemble,” Nuri wrote to The Hoya. “I regularly jam with some of my friends and play sax, piano, and guitar with them. Music has played a major role in my life. I use music as my release and break from the busyness of everyday life at Georgetown.”
The professional musicians’ stories inspired her to continue pursuing her love of playing baritone saxophone in and out of class, she said.
Bratcher said he appreciated his students’ engagement with the musicians and is grateful to have had the opportunity to host Albrecht, Norris and Pilzer at Georgetown.
“We are lucky to live in an area with such a vibrant music scene,” Bratcher wrote. “People in the jazz community are always happy to come and work with our students.”
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