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Sculpture outside of Battelle Fine Arts Center

Jazz and Contemporary Styles

Whether you wish to simply join an ensemble or explore academic studies in jazz, students participating in jazz and contemporary music at Otterbein enjoy a wide array of ensembles and courses to support their interests. These ensembles are among the most active in the music department, as each performs regularly at venues on and off campus.

Participation in ensembles and most* courses are open to all Otterbein students regardless of major. More serious students may be interested in one of our Bachelor of Arts degrees with emphasis in Jazz Studies, Music and Business, or Audio Production. Whatever your level of interest, at Otterbein you can study with dedicated jazz educators who are also some of the most sought-after performers and clinicians in central Ohio. 

The Columbus area offers a very active and diverse live music scene from which students derive nearly endless opportunities to not only attend jazz and contemporary music performances, but also book their own performances as well! 

*some jazz courses carry pre-requisites; please consult the course catalog for more information

The Jazz Ensemble

Director: Ben Huntoon

The Jazz Ensemble is the large group of the instrumental jazz area, focusing on big band compositions and arrangements from the past 70 years, emphasizing more current music and historically significant pieces.  Instrumentation may vary, but holds closely to the typical big band coterie of around 20 musicians. The goals of this ensemble are to learn important repertoire and performance practice from stylistic innovators in the genre, develop one-on-a-part section blend, swing feel and ensemble precision, and increase improvisation skills.

Jazz Combos

Directors: Chris Berg and Karl Wohlwend

Jazz was first played in small combos and this kind of ensemble remains the crucible in which artists prepare themselves. The instrumentation of these groups is very flexible to allow maximum participation by any interested student. The goals of each combo are to learn tunes from the standard jazz canon and elsewhere, improve understanding of form and chord-scale reading, build improvisation skills and a precise, unified ensemble sound. Otterbein usually carries two jazz combos, both of which are free to explore diverse jazz styles and adapt any music into their format.

Jazz Guitar Ensemble

Director: Chris Berg

The Guitar Ensemble explores the art of the small guitar ensemble in a contemporary jazz and multi-idiom context including part-reading, jazz phrasing, accompaniment, arranging/composition, and improvisation. Prior experience with the guitar and some note reading ability are required. A recent sample of repertoire includes compositions by Sting, Frank Zappa, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, and various jazz standards.

The Anticipations

Director: Karl Wohlwend

The Anticipations was created as an outlet for Otterbein students who are interested in popular music styles other than jazz, in particular Top 40 and rock and roll.  Over the course of each year, the group covers a variety of styles and there are many opportunities for students to get involved at their comfort level, or stretch beyond it if they choose. Members can opt to step out front as the lead singer, take a supportive role with simple keyboard or percussion parts, or take a technical role. It all comes together to provide a great experience in an actual working band. The group performs at least once each semester and produces a CD each year in conjunction with our Audio Production students. The Anticipations is open to any student currently enrolled at Otterbein University, regardless of major.

Opus One

Director: Dr. Gayle Walker

Opus One is a 16-voice jazz ensemble that performs a wide variety of music, including unaccompanied multi-part pieces. Opus One has a busy performance schedule, and is one of the featured ensembles each February for "Music and Romance," a performance in an off-campus venue that also serves as a fundraiser for student touring.

Faculty & Staff

Michael Yonchak

Michael Yonchak

Associate Professor
Music Education

Battelle Fine Arts Center 117
p/ 614.823.1808
e/ myonchak@otterbein.edu

Dr. Michael Yonchak currently serves as Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music Education at Otterbein University. A native of Ohio, Dr. Yonchak completed his Bachelor of Music in Education and Master of Music at Youngstown State University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Wind Conducting from the University of Kentucky. His current research interests surround American composer Frank Zappa, leading to numerous journal articles and presentations and, by extension, topics related to popular music and culture. Dr. Yonchak is also an active percussionist on the Columbus music scene, with performances ranging from indie-rock to jazz to traditional flamenco and Irish percussion. 

Dr. Yonchak is an endorsee for Vic Firth, Inc., and Finnegan Hill Irish Percussion (www.finneganhill.com).