Jazz concert unites two schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
SALISBURY — Jazz was the genre in a historic concert Wednesday that joined students at Livingstone and Catawba colleges for the first time and featured acclaimed trumpet player Vinnie Ciesielski.
The concert was the brainchild of Sidney C. Sessoms Jr., director of bands at Livingstone College. He had planned to hold the concert on the college’s front lawn, but inclement weather forced it inside Varick Auditorium.
Nonetheless, the concert was a hit and students at both schools say they hope the effort will be repeated.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Livingstone freshman biology major Jimmy McNeill, a trombone player. “I was really nervous because we didn’t get to practice much, but it turned out great. It was good for the two schools to come together and put on a concert for the community, and I really hope we can do this again with Catawba musicians at some point. I’m grateful to Mr. Sessoms for organizing it and for asking me to be a part of it.”
Catawba senior Austen Peters, a music business major who plays percussion, said he wanted to participate because he thought it’d be fun.
“I love to play music and I love jazz,” Peters said. “I think we need more of this, more collaboration between the two schools.”
Sessoms, who said it took several months to coordinate the joint concert, hopes Wednesday is only the beginning of such efforts.
“I am happy we were able to have this collaborative effort with Catawba College,” Sessoms said. “The colleges are less than three miles apart and both have wonderful music programs, so I thought it only made sense that we came together for a fun evening during which students played jazz, America’s classical music.
“Aside from the historical significance of the concert, the students got the chance to work with Vinnie Ciesielski, one of the foremost trumpet players in the world today.” Sessoms said. “Vinnie brought a wealth of experience, having played with some of the world’s musical giants, and I hope the students at Livingstone and Catawba realize the great opportunity they were afforded.”
Ciesielski, of Nashville, has been playing the trumpet for 39 years. He has played on thousands of recordings with artists including Lyle Lovett, Travis Tritt, T.D. Jakes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kirk Franklin, Queen Latifah, Yolanda Adams and Donnie McClurkin. Ciesielski has performed live with artists including Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffet, Paul Simon, Sting, Tony Bennett, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The O’Jays, Aretha Franklin, Vince Gill, Bruce Hornsby, Amy Grant, Percy Sledge and Bob Hope.
He has appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Conan O’Brien,” “Austin City Limits,” “Rosie O’Donnell” and The Stellar Awards, among others.
Ciesielski and Sessoms became friends while attending Bennett Junior High School in Salisbury, Md. Although they later went to rival high schools, their friendship remained intact, and when Sessoms invited Ciesielski to participate in the joint concert he gladly accepted.
“I’m sort of looking for the next generation of players that are going to do what we do in the studio and live,” Ciesielski said. “In my search I’m coming across students who are tenacious enough and have the discipline to hone their craft to a point where they can do what we do for a living. Being here at Livingstone is part of my search, and if I can find somebody I can work with to help change the direction of his or her life through relating my experience in the music business, then that’s what I want to do.”