Emory Report
March 5, 2007
Volume 59, Number 22

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March 5, 2007
Jazz meets classics at sold-out New York city alumni event

By Eric rangus

A sold-out crowd of Emory alumni welcomed the Emory Chamber Music Society to Carnegie Hall in New York on Saturday night, Feb. 24, for a concert that featured some of the University’s most gifted musicians stretching the boundaries of their art.

An event sponsored by the Emory Alumni Association, “Jazz Meets Classics” featured the Gary Motley Quartet (the Motley jazz trio augmented by saxophonist and Emory professor Dwight Andrews), the Vega String Quartet (Emory’s first resident quartet and a world-renowned chamber ensemble), and Emory Professor of Piano Will Ransom.

All nine musicians shared the stage in Weill Recital Hall (located on the third floor of Carnegie Hall), where much of the venue’s chamber music is performed. Selections ranged from classical composers who needed just one-name identification — Bach, Mozart and Stravinsky — to jazz greats from more modern times — Fats Waller, George Gershwin and Herbie Hancock. Concluding the show was the premiere of an original composition by Motley called “Suite Odyssey” that combined the talents of both quartets. At other times the jazz musicians (Motley, Andrews, Moffett Morris on bass and Lorenzo Sanford on drums) and classical musicians (Wei Wei Le and Jessica Shuang Wu on violin, Yinzi Kong on viola and Guang Wang on cello) had their genres to themselves.

Interspersed among the performances was commentary by Ransom, Motley and Andrews that focused on the ways the two diverse musical genres intersected. Ransom and Motley also traded off playing the one piano located stage left.

The concert was a return engagement between Emory and Carnegie Hall. The last time the Chamber Music Society performed in the Weill Recital Hall was in April 2005. That event focused on the chamber music of Johannes Brahms.

Many of the concert-goers came from an EAA-hosted reception for New York alumni that was held at a hotel a couple of doors down from Carnegie Hall. That reception featured more then 150 attendees who heard brief addresses from President Jim Wagner, Emory Alumni Board President Walker Ray and Student Alumni Association Co-President Ben Corley, a senior in Emory College.

The reception and concert provided a chance for Emory alumni in New York to reconnect to their alma mater. The EAA sponsors several events there each year and the EAA local regional chapter—Emory’s largest outside Atlanta—organizes several others on its own. But because such a large contingent was visiting from Atlanta, many alumni took advantage of the opportunity to get close.

“Professor Andrews was one of my instructors,” said one of the concert-goers, a 20-something man, to his companion as they walked down the stairs from their balcony seats after the show. “Tonight I felt like I was back in class,” he continued.

Upon reaching the ground floor, he took a step toward the exit then reconsidered. “I think I’ll go say hello,” he said, changing direction toward the stage and a reconnection with his former instructor.