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History of the Jazz Ensemble

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M.U. Jazz Ensemble History  

    Through the years there have been offshoots of the concert band for students who enjoyed other styles of music.  In the mid-twenties, the "Music Masters" was a Marquette University stage band that played professionally for school and public dances.  It was the first of its kind in the State of Wisconsin.  Later, a group known as the "Campus Cats" became popular on campus.  However, because of Union regulations, this group could not perform at public functions.  In the early Forties, the "Music Masters" was revived by William J. Geisheker who was the pianist of the group.  All members joined the Milwaukee Musicians' Union and enjoyed several years of profitable employment playing for mixers in the old gym, sorority and fraternity dinner dances, and an occasional wedding reception.  In 1964, Robert Quatman, a sax player in the concert band, organized a stage band on an amateur basis.  By this time most high schools and colleges had stage bands as a part of their band programs.  

    In 1967, Nicholas J. Contorno was hired to direct the stage band which then became known as the Marquette University Jazz Ensemble.  The Jazz Ensemble performs at the three annual concerts given by the Symphonic Band; in addition, the group gives numerous performances each year on campus and at public functions.  The Jazz Ensemble is a most necessary adjunct to the Concert Band in bringing many fine reed players to Marquette.  There is a rule at Marquette University, as there is at most Colleges, that all Jazz Ensemble members must also be members of the Concert Band.  This group sponsors an Annual Jazz Invitational for area  high schools and in 1972 hosted the Maynard Ferguson Band.  Under Mr. Contorno's direction, the Jazz Ensemble has developed into one of the finest in Wisconsin.

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