New Dana Ensemble Ready to Bloom with Spring

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Dave Morgan is always tinkering away at music. The jazz professor at Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music took on a new challenge as he composed the set list for the Dana Ensemble’s inaugural performance.

The concert will be the music school’s first live show of 2021 and will feature a mix of show tunes, jazz, pop and other genres. The Dana Ensemble is a new entity composed of members of the school’s faculty. It’s also the school’s first permanent professional ensemble.

The concert, titled “Sounds of Spring,” will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at Powers Auditorium. Attendance will be limited to 300 for the 80-minute concert.

“It’s like a giant party but all these people are playing music,” Morgan said.  “And you’re thinking about having things for everybody to do and making sure everybody has a good time and enjoys it.”

Randy Goldberg, director of the Dana School of Music, partnered with YSU cello professor Kivie Cahn-Lipman to put the faculty’s talents on display. Talks started at the end of the fall semester and Morgan began composing the set list after the spring semester started in January.

Randy Goldberg, director of the Dana School of Music

“We reached out to faculty to perform at these concerts and we’re glad they agreed to do it so we could put on these shows,” Goldberg said.

Cahn-Lipman originally asked Morgan to compose a jazz concert, but then asked if some of the classical faculty could join. Eventually, the ensemble was opened to the faculty. It fell on Morgan to find a way to blend different instrumentation such as classical guitar, drums and a string quartet, among others. 

The concert’s working title was “Sounds of Hope and Resilience.” Morgan worked to find songs that flowed together and incorporated all of the instruments while still maintaining a positive sound.

“It’s sort of our gift to the community to just acknowledge what we’ve all been through,” Morgan said. “While we’re not out of the woods, there’s hope and things are going to be better.”

The ensemble will feature guest performers Helen Welch and David Kana.

Welch is an internationally acclaimed vocalist, entertainer, producer and band-leader from England. Since moving to the United States, she’s been producing her own shows at  Cleveland’s Playhouse Square and the Akron Civic Theatre.

Kana is a 1984 graduate of YSU. He’s played with a number of groups and artists, including the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the Temptations and Buddy Greco. Kana is a jazz instructor at YSU.

“We have a world-class roster of musicians playing music,” Goldberg said. He also expressed his thanks to Morgan for arranging all of the music.

YSU jazz professor Dave Morgan

“He’s someone who likes to stay behind the scenes, but he’s done a lot of work on this and a lot of the artistry we’re going to see on Sunday is thanks to his great musicianship,” Goldberg said.

The concert represents a slight return to normalcy for Morgan and Goldberg.

The studios and classrooms on the second floor of Bliss Hall are usually filled with the sounds of singing and music. But due to COVID-19, the halls have been mostly filled with silence.

Students had to transition from harmonizing with a group to practicing via Zoom, but the adoption of technology helped keep performances alive.

“I think we accomplished a lot,” Goldberg said. “We recorded a lot of recitals and concerts that are on our YouTube pages.”

The Dana Ensemble’s second concert, “The Society for Public Musical Performance,” is scheduled for May 2 at 3 p.m. at Powers Auditorium. It will feature three orchestral pieces and a premiere piece composed by University of Akron faculty member Jamie Wilding.

Social distancing will be enforced at the concerts. Guest are required to wear masks and remain in their seats throughout the performance.

Tickets for the “Sounds of Spring” are available at DeYorPAC.org or by phone at 330 259 9651. Reserved tickets are $10 ($9 for senior citizens; free for YSU students with school ID). A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door.

The “Sounds of Spring” concert will be posted to the Cliffe College YouTube channel for those unable to attend.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.