Crane Jazz Ensemble to Present Two World Premieres by Student Composers at Next Concert

Crane Jazz Ensemble Showcases New & Original Works at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music on Feb. 23

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Student composers Thomas Avella '19 (left) and Skye Hamilton-Carranza '19 (right) will premiere new works with the Crane Jazz Ensemble in concert on Thursday, Feb. 23.

POTSDAM, NY (02/15/2018) (readMedia)-- The Crane Jazz Ensemble at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music will present a concert consisting completely of original works composed by students and faculty on Friday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m., in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater.

Two undergraduate composers at The Crane School of Music are set to perform alongside their fellow musicians in the Crane Jazz Ensemble during the world premieres of their new works in the upcoming concert. The ensemble's director, Bret Zvacek, said that this is the first time in years, if not ever, that the ensemble has performed a program consisting entirely of original works by Crane composers.

New selections by junior music composition majors Thomas Avella '19 (Stony Brook, N.Y.) and Skye Hamilton-Carranza '19 (Freeport, N.Y.), who both perform in the ensemble's saxophone section, will be heard for the first time at the concert.

The performance will open with "Do Re Sol," a 2009 piece written by Zvacek, the director of the jazz studies program at Crane.

Immediately following, the Crane Jazz Ensemble will present Avella's "Your Story," which combines themes from standard big band music with original themes.

"The piece brings a modern sensibility in terms of big band style, combined with some newer and classical influences," Avella said. "'Your Story' is based on a tune that I wrote last year. I reworked the melody and just kept expanding from there."

In addition to his composition work, Avella is also a virtuosic performer, and was recently named as a finalist in the North American Saxophone Alliance 2018 Collegiate Jazz Competition. He was one of only seven college students across the U.S. and Canada to be selected for the final round of the competition. Avella will perform live in the final competition in Cincinnati, Ohio, next month, accompanied by a full band.

In addition to playing saxophone with the Crane Jazz Ensemble, Avella also performs with the Giroux Honors Jazz Combo, the Crane Wind Ensemble and the Crane Latin Ensemble. He completed an educational tour of Cuba along with the Crane Latin Ensemble last spring, performing with and learning from master Cuban musicians as part of the College's new partnership with the Universidad de Cienfuegos.

"That trip to Cuba really influenced the way that I think about music, not just in the way that I write music, but also in how I perform and experience it," Avella said.

Following a brief intermission, the Crane Jazz Ensemble will perform Hamilton-Carranza's "Sonic Variables: Vol. 1, The Track Suite," which consists of seven movements.

"This work started out as just one piece, 'Track 7,' which ended up being the last movement in the set. I was just playing the piano last year and began to explore a harmonic progression. I thought, 'That sounds interesting,' and for six months, I just continued to play with it, but I never wrote it down. I just let it simmer in my head," Hamilton-Carranza said. "Then I stayed up all night on a Monday night, finally writing it all down. It's my first big work."

The young composer is majoring in music composition and completing his performance degree in oboe while at The Crane School of Music, where he has gained experience in a variety of instruments and styles. Hamilton-Carranza performs on saxophone with the Crane Jazz Ensemble and the Crane Latin Ensemble, on English horn with the Crane Wind Ensemble and on oboe with the Crane Symphonic Band. He plays all of the woodwind instruments and knows a little trumpet and piano, and on top of that also has a passion for marching percussion.

"My journey at Crane has been awesome. I really have gotten to learn from wonderful people and try all kinds of new things to push myself," Hamilton-Carranza said.

This concert is free, and the public is invited to attend.

About the performers:

The Crane Jazz Ensemble is the premier performance group in the jazz studies program at The Crane School of Music. The 19 outstanding musicians in the ensemble perform on saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, vibes, percussion and electronics.

This concert will be broadcast live on the Crane School of Music YouTube channel at the performance time. To view the program and see other upcoming streaming performances, visit

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York's only All-Steinway institution. For more information about SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music, please visit