Michael Giles and his Central Iowa Jazz All-Stars

ISU faculty member Michael Giles has been stirring up the jazz scene in Ames this summer with his big band, the Central Iowa All-Stars.

“It takes someone to take initiative and get the ball rolling. [We] just get together and play.” says Giles in regards to his big band, the All-Stars.

He emphasized the importance of taking initiative to make things like the summer band happen. He hoped to be “the great facilitator” and inspire local musicians to take advantage of their resources and take initiative to do something great.

Musicians often have difficulties organizing ensembles in the summer time because of logistical and financial issues, both of which the performers of the summer big band don’t have to worry about. Giles’ familiarity with the local jazz community and his students enabled him to use his connections to bring to life something that is rarely present between semesters.

The Central Iowa Jazz All-Stars offers a cross section of musicians from both ISU bands and members of the community. Overall the intention behind the group is to offer students and alumni the opportunity to perform in a structured group and work with a wide variety of jazz music.

“It’s a nice opportunity because we can get some graduates, and people form Jazz 1 and 2. It’s fun to kinda mix it up and get some different players; which is more like in the real world. It’s good for the students to get that community.” says Giles.

The big band plays a variety of tunes that range from jazz standards to popular arrangements and other lesser-known pieces by great composers.  Everyone in the band gives input to the repertoire; the selection is based on three basic criteria; important charts or standards, charts by famous composers, and good arrangements.

Aside from helping decide the literature, Giles is the conductor, roadie, personnel manager, and chief organizer of the operation.  There is no money exchanged on behalf of the ensemble because Giles works with local organizations to coordinate performances.

The group rehearses weekly from 6pm to 7:30pm until the end of the summer and have even booked one “gig” so far. It’s more of a community group than a professional band, and therefore are no membership or studio fees.

The big band will be performing on Thursday evening, July 1st at 7:15 at Bandshell Park here in Ames. It will be a joint performance with the Ames Municipal Band, directed by Michael Golemo.

Giles is the director of Jazz Studies here at ISU and also conducts the Jazz 2 big band and leads the jazz combos at the Department of Music. He is also maintains the saxophone studio and teaches saxophone methods and literature classes.

Giles is often featured at the Maintenance Shop has multiple recordings and a few albums under his belt with his combo, the 3×5. He also teaches clinics and seminars in jazz saxophone and piano.

During the school year, the Iowa State Department of Music offers students numerous opportunities to perform in jazz ensembles. There are two big bands that rehearse weekly and perform concerts and contests throughout both the fall and spring semesters.


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