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Renowned composer to work with students of Merrillville school music club

By: Merrillville Community Schools Last Updated: September 11, 2019

Charley Harrison, UCLA jazz professor and assistant artistic director of the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, one of the top performing groups in the world, will be the special guest of Merrillville High School Orchestra Teacher Diane Rosenthal and the school’s Jazz Orchestra Club on Monday, Sept. 23.

Rosenthal commissioned a piece from Harrison specifically for the club for its 2020 Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) performances, and Harrison will be working with them on the music he composed from 3 to 4:30 p.m. that day.

ISSMA requires three pieces that reflect three styles of jazz during competitions. Harrison developed the “Pirate Suite” in three movements: “Undeniable Strings,” in the style of swing; “Strolling the Street Fair,” a ballad; and “Even Pirates Get the Blues,” a blues number.

Merrillville High School is the home of the Pirates.

According to Rosenthal, “It’s pretty special to have a piece written for you and even more unusual to get to work with the composer of the music you are playing. Bach and Beethoven aren’t likely to show up to help us out!”

Rosenthal and Harrison both went to Evanston Township High School, and it was a high school reunion where they reconnected.

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music website states, “Charley Harrison is one of a rare breed of composers that is as equally skilled with a baton in front of an orchestra, as he is behind a computer in a studio full of synthesizers. Known for his stirring orchestrations, as well as hard-driving swing, Harrison’s music has been enjoyed on film and television, symphony halls and nightclubs, in the studio and on the road, both domestically and abroad.”

This is the third year for the jazz orchestra club that Rosenthal started. Rosenthal is a classically trained violinist.