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Hunter Symphony and Jazz Ensemble Celebrate the Frank Sinatra Centennial

This month, singers and musicians everywhere have been celebrating Sinatra’s 100th birthday. There have been tribute shows of every size, on all kinds of stages. 

And when it came to presenting a show that honored the great artist in the best possible way, Hunter proved to be A number one, top of the heap.

On December 2, at a concert in the campus’s acoustically rich Assembly Hall, Sinatra received a moving,  artful tribute. Professor Reuben Blundell, a conductor and classical violinist, and Professor Ryan Keberle, a composer and jazz trombonist, led the musicians of the Hunter Symphony and the Hunter Jazz Ensemble in the memorable evening performance. Opening with “My Kind of Town” and closing with “World on a String,” it featured brilliant instrumentals, soaring vocals, and Sinatra’s favorite arrangements of Great American Songbook hits.

Audience member Yvonne Chow ’18, a flutist and Thomas Hunter Honors Scholar, praised the show as “fun and upbeat.” At the same time, she acknowledged because Sinatra fans of her generation are small in number, they’re often “quiet about their enthusiasm.”

Chow’s friend Ian McNally ‘16 was onstage that night with both the Symphony and the Jazz Ensemble. A singer, violinist and guitarist, McNally often performs with his own band, Cicero & the Orations, as well as the campus groups Hawkappella and Popular Music Combo. He and Chow both said their favorite tune in the show was “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” sung that evening by Hunter alumna and faculty member Priscilla Owens (MA ’99).

Owens is a globally acclaimed vocalist, and as director of the Hunter Jazz Vocal Workshop, part of a faculty known for its superb musicianship and devotion to teaching.

“I came to Hunter because the music program is small and has a great core of faculty, and because as a music major, I get private lessons with Professor Blundell,” McNally said. “My classmates and I play regularly with the faculty, and they really WANT to play with us. This is a program where students come in good and leave great.”

Frank Sinatra, who spoke often of the lessons he learned from performers like Billie Holiday and Tommy Dorsey, would definitely approve.

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