October 22, 2014

WPI Musicians to Jazz Things Up at Veterans Inc. Gala Military Ball

When they take the stage for this engagement, it will not just be another gig. For these young musicians it means more than just playing tunes while people drink and socialize. It is another event in the group’s continuing community outreach, which is at the heart of all WPI jazz ensembles.

“At the start of each academic year I like to remind my students that, although this is a student organization with little discretionary money for non-profit giving, we certainly can and should contribute with our music,” says Jazz Studies director Rich Falco. “Worcester will be their home for at least four years and it is important to contribute to the community in which they live. This is a lesson I hope they carry with them wherever they find themselves living after their time at WPI.”

“I see community outreach as a chance to connect with people outside of WPI.” – bassist Alex Kopchik ‘15

A great deal of the community outreach performances are off-campus at fundraisers. The upcoming gig is a biennial event that the group has played several times. It is the Veterans Inc. Gala Military Ball. According to Jason Palitsch, the organization’s spokesperson, next year will mark the organization’s 25th anniversary. “The Gala Military Ball will serve as a launch platform to commemorate this occasion while honoring veterans,” he says.

Veterans Inc. is New England’s leading provider of support services to veterans and their families. Since 1991, Veterans Inc. has helped more than 55,000 veterans and today offers programs in all six New England states.

Who: WPI Jazz Ensemble, directed by Rich Falco

What: Veterans Inc. Gala Military Ball

Where: Historic Armory Building, 44 Salisbury Street

When: Saturday, Oct. 25, 5:30 p.m.


For more information, e-mail huaweb@wpi.edu

Another aspect of the WPI group’s community outreach is spreading the gospel of the American art form known as jazz. Trumpeter Luke Perreault ’15 (BME/Pre-Med major) is the group’s secretary.

“For me, community outreach gigs are the best part of being a musician at WPI,” Perreault says. “Like a lot of musicians at WPI, I’m an amateur musician, but I have a deep love for jazz and a love for the history and the culture that surrounds it. WPI jazzers have the opportunity to share that love with everyone. We get to make the music we love and teach other folks—kids and adults—about jazz and about that world and that culture.”

In addition to Veterans Inc., a partial list of organizations for which the group has recently played include the American Cancer Society, the New England Center for Children, the American Heart Association, and the American Red Cross.

As for spreading the jazz gospel, the group performs such annual events as “Conversations in Jazz” at Mechanics Hall, stART on the Street, and the Shrewsbury Street College Shuffle.

“I see community outreach as a chance to connect with people outside of WPI,” says bassist Alex Kopchik ‘15. “We play on campus several times a year, but it brings us joy to extend that music off campus as much as possible. And Professor Falco has worked very hard for a very long time to help preserve the art of jazz and Worcester’s role in jazz both historically and at present day.”

Kopchik, who graduates next May with a degree in chemical engineering, says the community outreach is a “validation that people do care about jazz, and that it will be a piece of culture that will long outlast any of us, something that we can pass on to the next generation of musicians and listeners.”

Needless to say, Falco is proud of his students. “Yes, WPI students are so mature and engaged,” he says. “They welcome the opportunity to make a difference in the health of these organizations and enjoy sharing their music.

“Although,” he says with a laugh, “I do hear the occasional complaint when we are loading the van at 7 a.m., or about wearing their tuxedos yet again—but usually it’s all in good fun.”