NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble to host dance party


In this Oct. 5, 2011, file photo, NIU’s Latin Jazz Ensemble played at Latin Dance Party in the Diversity room of the Holmes Student Center.

By Katie Finlon

Let loose and salsa to your heart’s content in the music building tonight.

The NIU Latin Jazz Ensemble will host its first dance party of the year at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Latino & Latin American Studies and the Latino Resource Center.

The Latin Jazz Ensemble was started by percussion head Greg Beyer. The group’s humble beginnings went from a small non-credit group to a small combo worth ensemble credit.

Now, it’s grown to a big band and is offered both semesters, said visiting percussion instructor Michael Mixtacki.

“Be prepared for some serious sound,” Mixtacki said. “It’ll be really energetic, and it’ll be really fun.”

The students within this ensemble also had the opportunity to arrange pieces for the band, and Mixtacki stressed the band’s work ethic is phenomenal, especially since concerts for the band don’t usually happen this early in the semester.

“It’s been cool to see the old members helping the new members go from zero to 60 in no time at all,” Mixtacki said.

The band’s influences stem from groups like the Caribbean Jazz Project and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and the Latin Jazz Ensemble members have also adapted a Cuban and Afro-Cuban style, Mixtacki said.

“We usually try to embody the style and character of the composers of these tunes,” Mixtacki said.

The concert has an atypical layout, switching back and forth from a DJ to live music. The intent is to create a vibe you’d get from a salsa club in Chicago, Mixtacki said.

“It’s an experience more than it is just a concert for our band,” Mixtacki said.

This isn’t a traditional concert where the audience is expected to sit down, be quiet and observe, according to ensemble member Zane Cupec, percussion graduate assistant and music performance graduate student.

“To me, this kind of music is really cool because of the interaction between dance and the ensemble,” Cupec said. “They actually come together.”

The event will end at 10:30 p.m. and admission is free. Appetizers from Taxco Restaurant, 223 W. State St., will also be provided.

“It’s really communal,” Cupec said. “[It’s] all of the arts coming into one.”