Inspired by coach's struggle with cancer

Jazz Group Surprises National Festival

By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs

Inspired by the courageous struggle of their vocalist coach JoJo David in his battle with cancer, the 30 members of BC bOp!, Boston College's jazz ensemble, put in a courageous performance of their own at the University of Nevada at Reno's Jazz Festival, placing fifth among 35 national universities and claiming a festival-high four individual performance awards.

BC bOp!, conducted by Director of Bands Sebastian Bonaiuto, received a superior rating from all judges and placed ahead of such noted competitors as the University of California at Sacramento, whose own ensemble members are students in the university's renowned School of Music.

"I am so proud of this group of student musicians," said Bonaiuto. "Only one of our 30 students is a music major and we outperformed schools where all of the students not only study music but plan on careers in music upon graduation. We were the underdog at this festival, but our students played from their hearts and performed beautifully."

Members of BC bOp! performing on April 27 during the Arts Festival. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
The ensemble, which includes members of all undergraduate classes whose majors vary from geology to computer science, is led by Collin Ely '99, Brian Banker '99, David Hadly '01 and Adam Birnbaum '01. Together, this musical quartet has guided BC bOp! to its most successful year in its 12-year history, taking what was once a local experiment to national prominence.

"We felt this year that we had improved to the point at which we could compete at any level, including the most prominent national collegiate jazz festivals," said trombonist Ely. "Clearly, the credit should go to Seb Bonaiuto. We can't say enough about him. He's been incredible to work with."

"It was a great experience to go out to the West Coast and perform this well in a prestigious national competition," said pianist Birnbaum. "We clearly opened some eyes out there."

Honored with individual awards in their respective categories were sophomore Hadly for trombone, sophomore Birnbaum for piano, junior Matthew Stratton for trumpet and freshman Senien Hicks for tenor saxophone. BC was the only school in the competition to take home four individual awards.

Despite their success, band members concur that the highlight of the jazz festival was the emotional tribute paid to David when the ensemble decided to perform a capella his song "Tribute" during their final vocal performance.

"It was a great tribute to JoJo and it moved people to tears," said Birnbaum. "It's been a difficult year for us all, but we know that we made him proud of us."

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