STEPHENVILLE (April 26, 2017) — After nearly three decades at the helm of the Tarleton State University Jazz Studies Program, Director of Jazz Bands Greg Ball is retiring from teaching and conducting.
On Saturday, April 29, Ball will take center stage at the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center Auditorium and lead Tarleton jazz band alumni in a 6 p.m. concert, featuring just a handful of the more than 500 students he’s taught during his 27-year career. The former students, many of whom are music educators and professional musicians, will return to their alma mater and join their professor for a fun night of jazz hits and favorites.
The public is invited. There’s no charge.
The concert includes four groups of alumni performances, roughly based on when the former students attended Tarleton. Among the tunes selected for the concert are Count Basie’s “Four Five Six,” “Lil’ Darlin,” “Splanky” and “Moten Swing.” Others slated for performance are Duke Ellington’s “The Mooch,” Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song,” Thad Jones’s “Big Dipper” and “This Bass Was Made for Walkin’” and the jazz alumni favorite, “The Chicken” by Jaco Pastorius.
Following the Saturday evening alumni concert and reunion, Ball will conduct his last show on Monday, May 1, when current students in the Tarleton Jazz I and II Ensembles perform in their professor’s Farewell Concert beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Wells Fine Arts Center Auditorium.
Admission to the Greg Ball Farewell Concert is free with a valid Tarleton ID or $5 for general seating. The public is invited to attend to the musical celebration of Ball’s tenure at Tarleton, which began in 1990.
Ball first led the Tarleton Jazz Ensembles in 1991-92, and since then has taught more than 500 students in jazz studies courses at the university. During his tenure, Ball and his jazz ensembles have performed well over 400 charts—both on campus and at venues around the world as part of international tours with the student musicians.
The Tarleton Jazz Ensembles, under Ball’s direction, have performed twice in London, toured Ireland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, played in New York City’s Central Park and, most recently, traveled throughout Italy in summer 2016 for a 10-day concert tour. Closer to home, Ball and his bands have been a regular at The Live Oak in Fort Worth and began performing publicly for Jazz on the Green in Granbury 15 years ago.
During his nearly 30-year career, Ball has earned great respect and admiration from both students and supporters of jazz studies, including Eric McNiel, director of bands at the Decatur Independent School District.
“I have Mr. Ball’s business card from 1996. It’s so old it still has an 817 area code… sitting in a frame on my desk,” said McNiel, a 2002 graduate of Tarleton’s music education program. “This simple card changed my life. At the time, I was going through a very hard stretch. I truly believe that this card saved my life.
“My mother passed away in June of 1997, and I moved to Stephenville in July all because Mr. Ball took the time to talk with me at a gig the jazz band was playing at Mineral Wells High School,” McNiel continued. “He means so much to me, and I am honored that I get to play under him one more time. Mr. Ball took me all over the world while I was playing in the Tarleton Jazz Ensembles, and I think of him as a father figure. I am so proud for him and Ms. (Betsy) Ball, they are going to be amazing in their new career. He means more to me than he will ever know. I love the man with all my heart.”
It’s a sentiment shared by all of those Tarleton Jazz alumni who plan to return this weekend. And, that love for their professor will shine through their music as they join him on stage one last time before Ball rides into retirement.
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