Bopping Along

Student jazz ensemble BC bOp! marks 10th year with release of a commemorative CD next week

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Ten years after its founding by a trumpet-playing chemistry major, the student jazz ensemble BC bOp! is thriving, sparked by talented musicians who take pride in being one of the hardest working bands in Boston College show business.

BC bOp!'s lively big-band swing and spirited stage presence have earned plaudits from Gasson Hall to Carnegie Hall, and past and present members credit the band's success to an uncommon esprit de corps , one which has produced long-lasting friendships and even romances.

The group attracts students from a variety of backgrounds, says Band Director Sebastian Bonaiuto, and usually includes more future lawyers and business professionals than music majors. The common chord among the band's two dozen members is simply a shared love of sharps and flats, he says, and a willingness to endure long practices and other hardships.

"Once you've been in the group more than a year, it really gets in your blood," said Bonaiuto. "These kids don't let anything get in the way of their success at BC bOp!"

Band Director Sebastian Bonaiuto directs a BC bOp! reheasal. "These kids don't let anything get in the way of their success," he said. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

The group is marking its 10th anniversary with the release of its first compact disc, "BC bOp! ... From the Edge: The First Ten Years," on April 1. The CD will set the stage for the band's annual concert at Robsham Theater on April 12 at 8 p.m. As many as 50 BC bOp! alumni are expected to attend the event and will join the current members for a few numbers.

Predominantly composed of undergraduates, BC bOp! is one of the most popular groups on campus, and their annual concert schedule includes the Breaking the Barriers Ball at O'Connell House, the AIDS Benefit Ball and a performance each semester in the third-floor cafe at McElroy Commons, in addition to the annual spring concert.

The group has achieved prominence beyond Boston College, playing at Disney World and at four different Club Med resorts. In 1991, BC bOp! played in a youth concert series at Carnegie Hall in New York and performed at the late House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr.'s 50th wedding anniversary party. From April 2-6, BC bOp! will compete in the Jazz Fest USA competition at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by Downbeat magazine.

BC bOp! has come far from its humble beginnings a decade ago, when members often lugged cumbersome basses and drums up four flights of stairs to practice in Lyons Hall and stowed equipment in a borrowed corner of the University Chorale office. The band at first had to recruit several musicians from outside BC, including one eccentric part-time postal worker who would arrive for practice with his sheet music and trombone mutes crammed into a postal crate.

"At the beginning, we were a handful of people who gathered up other musicians on campus we knew," said Newton resident Patrick Hurley '90, Law '93, who played trumpet in the band its first six years. "It was really like a family. There was a real bond between the people there."

The close ties formed and the experiences shared through BC bOp! often have a profound impact. Bonaiuto notes that band founder David Healey '90 decided to foresake a career in the laboratory and now teaches music at a middle school outside Chicago, and members say BC bOp! has spawned at least three marriages so far.

BC bOp! is a labor of love in other respects, says Bonaiuto, noting that two current members have continued to perform despite broken hands. But one of the walking wounded, bass player Timothy Burns, says no one in the band is more driven than its director.

"Seb Bonaiuto sets an incredible example of dedication," said Burns, a graduate student in philosophy. "He doesn't ask us to put in any more time than he does himself. He doesn't have to run BC bOp! It's clear he loves the music. He used to play the trumpet, and BC bOp! is his instrument, if you can imagine a [big] band as an instrument."

The group's 17-song CD will include tracks from each of its annual concerts at Robsham Theater. It features renditions of classic songs popularized by performers like Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters, as well as some ballads, funk and novelty selections. Each of the student musicians who played in the band during its 10 years will be heard performing on the CD, which will sell for $15 at the Boston College Bookstore.

Tickets for the April 12 concert are $7, and available through the Robsham Theater box office, the BC Bands office at Conte Forum and the student ticket booth at McElroy Commons. Call ext.2-3018 for more details.

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