Tidbits & Briefs

All That Jazz

Harris Long ’14 Matt Sazima ’14

Several Willamette musicians are among this year’s winners of DownBeat magazine’s annual Student Music Awards:

  • Harris Long ’14, Best Jazz Soloist (top right photo)
  • Matt Sazima ’14, Best Jazz Arrangement (bottom right photo)
  • The Willamette Singers, Best Large Jazz Ensemble

The awards are among the jazz world’s most prestigious honors conferred on students. Musicians and educators evaluate audio submissions for musicianship, creativity, improvisation and technique.

“I’ve submitted recordings for many, many years, and we’ve never won,” says Wallace Long Jr., director of choral activities. “Winning three awards at once moves Willamette’s jazz program to a new level of visibility among professional musicians.”

Award-Winning Music

"Remember," performed by Harris Long
"Skylark," performed by Matt Sazima
"I'll Sing for You," performed by Willamette Singers
Norwegian Wood performed by Willamette Singers
Uninvited performed by Willamette Singers
Oh, Lady Be Good performed by Willamette Singers

The awards were announced in DownBeat’s June issue. 

Related article: For the first time, Willamette musicians earn DownBeat awards

Himalayan Harmony

Matt Sazima ‘14, Jarrett Tracy ‘15 (on drums), Thomas Shipley ‘15, Willamette sax professor Sean Flannery and Sean Edging ‘14 get in the groove at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory’s Sundance Music Festival in March

Matt Sazima ‘14, Jarrett Tracy ‘15 (on drums), Thomas Shipley ‘15, Willamette sax professor Sean Flannery and Sean Edging ‘14 get in the groove at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory’s Sundance Music Festival in March.

Matt Sazima was also among Willamette musicians who traveled to Nepal during spring break to teach and perform at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory. Sazima and fellow musicians Sean Edging ’14, Thomas Shipley ’15 and Jarrett Tracy ’15 joined faculty jazz quintet James Miley, Mike Nord, Ryan Biesack, Tyler Abbott and Sean Flannery for classes, workshops and performances with young Nepali jazz musicians.

“It was really fun to discover that I share an interest in jazz with people from the opposite side of the earth,” Sazima says of the students. “They learn music by ear, and they’re very much in tune with each other.”

Edging agrees, saying he’ll always remember how much fun he had exploring the area with his fellow students.“I don’t think there’s a better way to end a trip than playing at the Sundance festival for local people and tourists, getting a double encore and spending the next morning swinging over a canyon from a suspension bridge,” he says.

Miley performed with his group, Bug, at the 2010 Jazzmandu festival, and returned to Kathmandu in 2012 with a Willamette faculty group. But this was the first year that students were invited to participate. Miley says he hopes to establish a semi-annual exchange program that brings Nepali students to Willamette.

Sometimes the “ game face” belongs to a woman. Jennifer Allaway ’15 presented her research on gender discrimination in the video gaming industry at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Allaway's Study at a Glance:

  • 60% of women admitted experiencing sexism to some degree in the gaming industry
  • 59% of women disagreed with the statement that men’s and women’s voices are respected equally during meetings, compared with 34 percent of men
  • 70% of women surveyed, and more than half of men, called the industry a “boy’s club”

Looking for Fair Play in the Game Industry

Video games have changed yet another young person forever — this time in a surprising way. After years of playing online and off, Jennifer Allaway ’15, a sociology major, grew curious about the prevalence of sexism in the medium and in the video gaming industry itself. Now, she’s become something of an expert on the topic.

In March, that industry invited Allaway to share what she’s learned from her yearlong academic study — “Sexism and the Game Industry” — at one of its premier events, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Her 25-minute presentation with Necrosoft Games director Brandon Sheffield highlighted gender discrimination and harassment that her research uncovered through 34 interviews and a survey with 344 respondents. Although she brought bad news, Allaway was heartened, if a little surprised, by the reaction. “I found dozens of earnest men and women at the end of my talk asking, ‘What can I do to make this better?’”

Her answer? Just talking and listening is a great start. “The more we discuss this subject, the more progress we’ll see toward gender-inclusive
games and gaming workplaces,” she says.

Allaway’s research began with a grant from Willamette’s Carson Undergraduate Research Program. Through the program, sophomores and juniors can receive up to $3,000 for scholarly, creative or professional summer research projects.

Shortly after the conference, Allaway followed up with an article on her paper at Gamasutra — an industry website.

Her favorite part of the conference was reconnecting with an interview subject who also attended. “She just looked at me and said, ‘I left the room crying. Thank you so much,’” Allaway says. “It was a humbling and unforgettable experience to help her voice be heard.”

A Writer Shares His Story

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

A sold-out crowd greeted Atkinson Lecture Series speaker, novelist and filmmaker Sherman Alexie at Smith Auditorium on March 11. Described by The New York Times Book Review as “one of the major lyric voices of our time,” Alexie’s 24 books have earned him numerous awards, including a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Alexie met with several dozen students and alumni throughout the day. Among them was Brendan Crews ’17, a member of Willamette’s Native American Enlightenment Association, who says Alexie’s success as a writer was inspiring and that “it helps you realize you, too, can succeed and reach your destination.” Alexie later visited Crews’ alma mater, Salem’s Chemawa Indian School.

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