Jazz Night celebrates Luther’s Homecoming

The Center for Faith and Life got out of their seats and grooved along to Luther’s Jazz Band and Jazz Orchestra this past Homecoming weekend. Both groups played in the CFL Main Hall on Friday, October 1.


The Jazz Night included pieces like “What Is Hip,” “Quiet Night And Quiet Stars,” and “So In Love,” with different styles and tempos that got the audience dancing. Professor of Music and Jazz Orchestra director Juan Tony Guzmán (‘90) explained his approach to finding the pieces featured on the program. Getting the audience involved was his main goal.


“Because we are playing for Homecoming, usually, our program – what we call Jazz Night, there are lots of people who dance while we are playing,” Guzmán said. “We like to include a lot of dancing music, the music that will inspire dancing.”


Additionally, Guzmán selected his pieces with the intention of reminding the alumni of their days at Luther, while also allowing his students to demonstrate their musical ability.


“Because there would be quite a few former members of the assembly coming back, we want them to remember Luther when they were students,” Guzmán said. “Also, we want music in which the band sounds good, in which they can show off their musical skills. Therefore, there are some pieces of music that are very challenging, and people would say ‘wow.’”


After 2020’s virtual Homecoming, Luther returned to celebrate Homecoming in person this year, which excited both the orchestra and band members. Saxophonist Riley Frank (‘23) explained why his performance during Homecoming would be special for him and his family.


“My mom went to Luther, and some close family friends in the area where I grew up also went [here],” Frank said. “Knowing that I’ll get to be the thing they’re proud of, at the school that they went to, is really touching. That’s something I really love about it, and something that I do look forward to is when I get the chance to show off some of the stuff that we do here.”


Despite the concert having to move indoors due to rain, Elise Weier (‘24), a Luther student attending the performance, believed the move provided a stronger sense of community. Rather than being spread out across Bentdahl, the indoor crowd made it a more personal experience for Weier.


“Everybody being able to listen to [music] and experience it together definitely connected us all more,” Weier said. “Music can bring people together. Seeing music in person again is just a renewal of that knowledge.”


The enjoyment wasn’t limited to current students: graduates from years past that attended Homecoming also felt that same spirit. Joy McDonald Coltvet (‘96), a Luther alumnus at the concert, expressed her excitement to be back on campus.


“I’m happy to be back, and it’s fun to see some of the same people like Tony Guzmán – he was here when we were here – it’s fun to see all the new things like all the students dancing, which I don’t remember anything like that happening when we were here,” Coltvet said. “I love how things at Luther College are still the same and change over time.”