North Texas Daily

New lab band director brings experience to job

New lab band director brings experience to job

New lab band director brings experience to job
April 27
23:30 2015

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

It took the College of Music a yearlong national search, but faculty and students have finally found the right man for the job.

Renowned bandleader and arranger Alan Baylock will serve as the new director of the One O’Clock Lab Band beginning next fall, sharing duties with interim director Jay Saunders until the 2016 academic year, when he will assume the role full time.

Chair of jazz studies John Murphy led a search committee of faculty members and found Baylock more than qualified for the position. Soon after inviting him to campus for presentations, Baylock accepted a job offer to lead the top performing ensemble of UNT’s jazz studies program.

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Alan Baylock

“He’s a prolific composer for all levels, and he writes music that’s played by professional big bands, by university-level big bands and by high school-level bands,” Murphy said. “He’s very well attuned to the educational function of the big band in a program like ours.”

Baylock leads his own big band, the Alan Baylock Jazz Orchestra, and serves as a jazz composer-in-residence at Shenandoah University in Virginia and is the chief arranger for the United States Air Force Airmen of Note jazz ensemble. His military service ends next year after 20 years in the Air Force.

Although he will have to direct music students rather than tenured players, Baylock said the lab band’s performance quality will make his move from internationally-acclaimed ensembles to a college setting a natural step.

“The One O’Clock Lab Band is as close to a professional band as a college band can get, so it won’t be a stretch,” Baylock said. “In many ways, it will be just like running a professional band.”

The directorship

Earlier this month, Baylock arrived on campus to attend meetings with the search committee. During his stay, Baylock worked with the lab band in a rehearsal and gave two presentations – the first on composing music and the second on conducting college jazz ensembles, a course which he will teach at the university.

Baylock said he recognized a few of the student musicians, some of whom he had met at concerts. He called the lab band “amazing, even in rehearsal,” after playing a composition and arrangement he had previously written.

“The faculty is top-notch, the quality of students is unbelievable, and everything is already in place for this to happen,” he said.

As a former student in the jazz studies program, Baylock said he had his compositions and arrangements recorded by the One O’Clock Lab Band, which Neil Slater directed at the time. His collaborative efforts with the lab band allowed him to write music for world-class guest artists, such as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Michael Brecker.

Baylock, a trumpet player, earned his master’s degree in 1995. He said visiting the College of Music after so many years gave him a certain sense of nostalgia.

“When I was walking through the halls again, it did feel like home,” he said. “I’m just really looking forward to getting down there and hitting the ground running.”

The lab band

After receiving six Grammy-award nominations, the One O’Clock Lab Band ranks the highest of the nine lab bands at the College of Music and is widely considered one of the best student jazz ensembles in the world. Its big band instrumentation includes five saxophones, five trombones and five trumpets along with piano, guitar, bass and drums.

Jazz composition graduate student Aaron Hedenstrom, who has played in the lab bandfor two years, knew Baylock from his reputation as arranger for the Airmen of Note. He said he is confident in the college’s choice for the new director and recognized Baylock’s accomplishments as a great fit.

“Many of [his] compositions and arrangements are played around the world, and his extensive professional experience will serve the students well,” Hedenstrom said. “He is also very personable, and I know that students will enjoy working with him.”

Murphy said this view has been echoed by other students, some of whom were able to learn more about Baylock and his work in a Q&A session during his visit. He said Baylock has a good understanding of the jazz program.

“The fact that the band has already been playing his compositions and arrangements and really liking them, and all of us have a high degree of respect for his work, I expect the transition to be seamless,” Murphy said. “All the messages that we’re getting from students and alumni is that he’s a terrific choice and an excellent fit for the job.”

The musical legacy

While Baylock plans to continue playing compositions and arrangements from previous members of the lab band, he said he also wants to focus on works by current members, citing his collaborations with the band during his graduate studies.

“There’s such a tradition and rich history in the band, and there’s already such great momentum,” he said. “There is already an international presence…but I really want to – through touring, CD releases and social media – get the band an even bigger and better reputation.”

Baylock said he is also certain the lab band will prove its talent with the help of prominent professors and a world-class music program.

“I truly believe in the jazz studies department in North Texas,” Baylock said. “It really is the place to go to study jazz in the country and in the world, and I’m just really excited to be a part of that tradition.”

Featured Image: The One O’Clock Lab Band perform as the headliners at the World Saxophone Congress XV in Thailand. The performance was held on the campus of Mahidol University in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Michal Garcia.

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