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For five seniors and retiring horn professor Bruce Atwell, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Jazz Ensemble concert May 4 will be the big finale.

The “senior send-off” concert, held at 7:30 p.m. in the Music Hall on the Oshkosh campus, will showcase several modern jazz works and a new piece arranged especially for Atwell by UWO director Marty Robinson.

The five featured seniors who are either graduating or finishing their coursework before student teaching are Kayla Ashley, of Neenah, on trombone; Sifi Fafalios, of Waukesha, on saxophone; Hannah May, of Algonquin, Illinois, on saxophone; Zach Stremer, of Stevens Point, on piano; and Michael Wittemann, of Cedarburg, on bass.

Bruce Atwell

Atwell, who joined the UW Oshkosh music faculty in 1998, also has served  as principal horn with the Fox Valley Symphony and member of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. He retires following the spring semester.

Lessons learned

Involvement in the Jazz Ensemble taught Fafalios, a supply chain management major and recording technology minor, about the importance of being surrounded by a community of people who have shared passions.

“It was a place of peace and expression away from all of the insanity that school and life had thrown me,” said Fafalios, who will be featured in the concert on Isfahan by Duke Ellington.

Wittemann, who will be featured on Black Nile by Wayne Shorter, learned a wealth of knowledge about jazz double bass work through the ensemble.

He said he chose UWO because it was the only university in Wisconsin that offered a degree in audio production. Following graduation, he will intern with Lighthouse Productions in Green Bay, doing live sound work and lighting and stage set up.

Ashley, who will be featured on The Way We Were by Mark Taylor, has made “great friends and memories” during her time with the Jazz Ensemble. The music education major plans to stay in the area and become a band director.

May, an international studies major with an emphasis in Latin America, said she grew a lot as a soloist during the past year with the ensemble. Her senior feature will be Don’t Be That Way by Benny Goodman.

“I’ve never totally understood the relationships between chords we work with in solo sections, but Marty has been amazing to work with this past year on that content. I really feel like I have grown in that aspect of my performance,” she said.

May chose UWO because of its study-abroad options and a scholarship opportunity in the music department. Following graduation, she will work in the business travel department at Fox World Travel.

Stremer, a radio TV film major who will be featured on North Shore Evening by Matt Harris, honed his musicality and learned a whole new repertoire of skills through his Jazz Ensemble experience.

“I’ve learned how to work better as a team and how the ensemble functions as a single entity. Another skill I’ve learned is time management, as my senior year started off with the concert schedules for three ensembles and, at the same time, working three jobs,” he said.

After commencement in May, Stremer heads to Wausau, where he will as a producer for WSAW-TV, a CBS affiliate.

“I’m grateful for all the friendships and memories I’ll take with me after I graduate,” he said.

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