<P>Fall 20149 Modell had already created a stage band at Southern Methodist University in Texas before arriving at the jazzless NIU in 1969. That first fall, 60 Huskies auditioned for the 20 available chairs. For the next three decades, that process proved so grueling and so emotionally straining, he says. The first week of school every semester, I earned 80 percent of my salary for the year. The first week was auditions; the same excerpts of music, over and over again. Many hopefuls were top dogs at their high schools, he adds, but NIU dramatically raised the stakes. To the students who had come to NIU with the dream of playing for the NIU Jazz Ensemble, he says, it was the look on their faces: ‘Is there a place for me? Can I make it here? In October 1969, only six weeks after launch, the NIU Jazz Ensemble played its first concert. Following advice from Leon Breeden, director of jazz studies at the University of North Texas (then North Texas State University), Modell quickly laid the foundation for what would become an institution. Leon told me my program would not reach its apex until half of each concert contained student compositions and arrangements, he says. Students were encouraged to write their own original music or arrange music they really loved for big band. Modell insisted they conduct not only the live performances, but also the recordings if their works were selected. Meanwhile, they gained good experience for classroom careers by teaching and conducting, while adding those recorded performances to their resume packages bolstered their credentials. The boss didnt love everything he heard though. Once in a while, he says, a student would come in having written something really far out, really avant-garde. Those would-be composers heard a joke about the two Viennese scientists. One of the scientists cheers that hes found a new way to make a baby. What a shame, the other replies, the old way was so much fun. They immediately got the message, Modell says. Go home and fix it. He also insisted that students never had to pay to represent NIU with their time and talent as members of the nations No. 1 touring jazz ensemble. In the early years, that wasnt easy. Budgets were small— so tight that the NIU Student Association paid for sound equipment and an electric piano—and he usually charged venues just enough to cover expenses. Its the summer of 1977, and Modell and his family are driving through Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. They stop for gasoline—this is when full-service station employees still filled the tanks—and Modell climbs out of the station wagon to stretch his legs. The young woman holding the pump smiles and points at him. She begins to wave her arms like a band conductor. Only one year later, and less than a decade after the day he planted the first seed, Modell and the NIU Jazz Ensemble join Dizzy Gillespie as the featured performers at the annual conference of the National Association of Jazz Educators in Dallas. Every music teacher in the audience poses the same question afterward, Modell says: Where the hell is DeKalb, Illinois? NIU has arrived. After Modell appeared on The Studs Terkel Program with jazz drummer Louie Bellson in 1979, a producer from WTTW- Chicago called the next morning. His name was Michael Hirsh, and he wanted to create a public television documentary on the NIU Jazz Ensemble. Modell said yes. Four years later, A Year in the Life of the Greatest College Jazz Band in America flooded the national From left: Ron Modell is pictured with Machitos trumpet section (1958), Louis Armstrong (1966), Maynard Ferguson (1973), Duke Ellington (1974), Dizzy Gillespie (1978), and Mel Torme (1980).</p> <UL><LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/1/1/">Front-Cover</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/2/2/">Inside-Front-Cover</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/3/3/">Page-1</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/4/4/">Page-2</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/5/5/">Page-3</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/6/6/">Page-4</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/7/7/">Page-5</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/8/8/">Page-6</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/9/9/">Page-7</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/10/10/">Page-8</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/11/11/">Page-9</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/12/12/">Page-10</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/13/13/">Page-11</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/14/14/">Page-12</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/15/15/">Page-13</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/16/16/">Page-14</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/17/17/">Page-15</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/18/18/">Page-16</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/19/19/">Page-17</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/20/20/">Page-18</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/21/21/">Page-19</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/22/22/">Page-20</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/23/23/">Page-21</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/24/24/">Page-22</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/25/25/">Page-23</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/26/26/">Page-24</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/27/27/">Page-25</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/28/28/">Page-26</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/29/29/">Page-27</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/30/30/">Page-28</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/31/31/">Page-29</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/32/32/">Page-30</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/33/33/">Page-31</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/34/34/">Page-32</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/35/35/">Page-33</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publication/699/ywgxbqogh/36/36/">Back-Cover</a></LI> <LI><a href="http://www.mzines.net/publications/699/x/sitemap.xml" target="_blank">site map</a></LI> </UL>

 

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