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Being a professional musician is a dream come true for many music students. Casey Wood and Spencer Howe get to live out that dream before either one of them has graduated by performing as two of a three-piece jazz combination called the Casey Wood Trio.
Howe, a junior in music education, said he, Wood and Bobby Gilgert first started playing together with Don Keipp and the Jazz Ensemble.
“That’s really when we started building chemistry between us,” Howe said. “After that, Bobby graduated and we decided that we needed to start meeting outside of school. This whole last summer, we met about once a week to get together and play. It was to hone our skills and work on our chemistry as a small combo group.”
For Howe, the best part about being in the Casey Wood Trio is being able to play music he loves with other talented musicians.
“I really enjoy playing with guys that I can really connect with,” he said. “Sometimes you get paired up with people in an ensemble that’s not of your choosing, and sometimes it’s not necessarily as fun as playing with people that you really connect with . . . I like playing jazz because it’s really free. When you get with people and there are no walls up, we can do things that are never written on the page and maybe only happen one time. That’s the beauty of it. It’s free, and it’s living, and it’s happening right now while we’re playing.”
Howe said he considers jazz a truly American style of music.
“I think something that people forget is that jazz is America’s truest art form,” he said. “Without it, everything that you listen to in popular music wouldn’t exist. I can’t think of anything that doesn’t link back to jazz and blues.”
Wood, pianist and vocalist for the group, said having the band named after him wasn’t his idea, but a decision made by the group to have the band be known by its singer.
“It’s only called the Casey Wood Trio because we didn’t have a name and the other guys are too humble to ever put their own names on it, and I sing, so they put my name on it,” Wood said.
Wood also said he and the other band members can get into a state where they are so connected as performers that they have the ability to improvise in new ways. That ability doesn’t just come from being good friends, Wood said; it also comes from a lot of time spent practicing.
“In jazz, it’s all about group cohesiveness,” Wood said. “When I play with them, we get into this weird zone where it’s like we just click. Spencer will start playing something, and we can just follow each other really well. That’s a fun thing about playing with these guys — we can read each other well. That comes out by just practicing a lot. The three of us can make really cool, creative things that I don’t think you can get from just random guys who are playing the chart.”
Will Peterson, a junior pursuing a degree in theater arts with an emphasis in technical design, said he first saw the band perform several years ago. While his original aim for attending the performance was to fulfill a class requirement, Peterson said he enjoyed the performance.
“I remember going to the performance and being impressed how in sync they were,” he said. “The performers were smiling and having a good time, and the music sounded really great.”
Peterson also said he loves jazz music for its spontaneous feel, how two jazz performances are never the same.
“The syncopated rhythms allow you to feel more than just ‘oh, this is good’. It’s something deeper. It reaches places in your heart that other music can’t.”