The crowd in N.C. Central University’s B.N. Duke Auditorium went silent after 25-year-old alumnus Alan Thompson switched from playing his saxophone to his electric keyboard. From there, the former jazz studies student performed an enthralling solo.
Both audience members and Thompson’s fellow band members were fixated on his performance as it reached a crescendo. As the solo came to an end, his band mates joined in to excite the crowd with a frenzy of percussion and string instruments.
NCCU alumni and faculty-percussionists welcomed visitors and students on Sunday for their fifth annual “Give the Drummer Some” benefit concert. The concert, created to raise funding for the Jazz Studies Scholarship Fund, was hosted by music department instructor and percussionist Thomas E. Taylor.
Audience members were encouraged to donate during the event. Some made donations through envelopes distributed while others bid on musical items during a silent auction. Other items, including t-shirts and paintings, were on sale as well.
The concert lasted a bit longer than it’s 7p.m. end time as prolonged performances kept attendees in their seats.
“Being that drumming is like a universal language that everybody can relate to, I’m looking in the crowd and I see undergrads that aren’t even jazz studies majors,” Thompson said. “I see people in the neighborhood, people all around, people from the Durham community.”
Thompson credits NCCU’s jazz studies department for his touring experiences with great jazz figures and performance knowledge. Thompson plays for local music group Zoocrü, which was recently nominated for ‘Best R&B Band’ at the Carolina Music Awards.
“Music is for everybody. It’s for humans. We’re trying to unify the world. Definitely during these times,” pianist and NCCU alumna Salome Serena Wiley said. Like Thompson, Wiley also learned to communicate and unite through sound education to command as composers.
The tenor saxophonist obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Performance Music Education and Jazz Studies.
Wiley’s biggest lessons were found in the noise of partying and sometimes organized noise, where she had to make sure her message was felt.
“I would close my eyes a lot—and that’s great—but you’ve got to look around. You got to see—hey, are you feeling this? Okay, well let me play this again or let’s just talk—and have a conversation through the music,” said Wiley. “I see and hear that, and that’s what was going on tonight.”