A group photo of the Ohio State Jazz Ensemble

The 2020 Ohio State Jazz Ensemble, despite overwhelming circumstances, continues to pursue their passion for music. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Jazz Ensemble

The sound of snaps, brass and stringed instruments alongside a few jazz hands here and there are set to fill the air at Mirror Lake Thursday.

Jazz at Mirror Lake — a yearly tradition in which a live performance is put on by the Ohio State Jazz Ensemble —  is back and will take place at the Browning Amphitheatre tent Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The outdoor show is directed by Shawn Wallace, associate professor and area head of jazz studies, and the performance is part of a 35-year tradition, Jeremy Smith, a second-year doctoral student in trombone performance, said in an email. 

The performance will feature compositions such as “Corner Pocket,” “In A Mellow Tone” and “Angel Eyes,” all by American jazz artist and composer Count Basie, Smith said. Basie formed the Count Basie Orchestra in 1935 and has won nine Grammy Awards, according to Basie’s website. The orchestra continues to perform today despite Basie’s death in 1984.

Wallace frequently tours with the Count Basie Orchestra, and Smith said the director’s previous experiences with the orchestra has helped the ensemble implement Basie’s classic sound into their performance. 

Like most events in 2020, COVID-19 has made preparation for the annual Jazz at Mirror Lake performance tougher than previous years. 

Brooke Butler, a fourth-year in instrumental music education and the ensemble’s third trumpet, said the ensemble’s usual rehearsal time has been cut in half. 

“Due to COVID procedures, we are only given 55 minutes to rehearse and have that 15-minute gap between the next class. So, we only have two-hour rehearsals together this year and we have a lot of repertoire to go through despite this,” Butler said.

In addition to having limited rehearsal time, the ensemble has restrictions within their practice space, requiring them to keep a distance of 10 feet between each other, Lucas Stickley-Miner, a fourth-year in jazz studies performance and the ensemble’s lead trumpet, said. 

“Communication is a lot harder, it is harder to hear what is going on in the room. It is a lot harder to get everything together as an ensemble because there is not that intimacy,” Stickley-Miner said. 

Like the band members, audience members will be required to follow proper social distancing rules and wear a mask. 

Despite these restrictions, Butler said he thinks the audience will still be able to enjoy the concert and there will be little effect on audience participation. 

“People all over campus, if they’re near Mirror Lake, they hear music, they’re going to come,” Butler said. 

Both Butler and Stikley-Miner said the ensemble’s ability to perform, despite the setbacks they’ve faced, is due to Wallace’s leadership. 

“He has stepped up to the task, trying to put forth a great performance while keeping the students and faculty safe,” Butler said. 

Jazz at Mirror Lake will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Browning Amphitheatre tent. The event is free to attend. In the case of cancelation due to inclement weather, the university will send out an alert Thursday by 1 p.m.