Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Music Department presented its first virtual Jazz Faculty Masterclass on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. The first of many to come, the diverse group of performers and educators of the college teamed together for an hour of long-awaited musical improvisation.

Four star faculty members, who have not performed together in over a year, were featured in the show, including Jim Holton on piano, Joe Falcey on drums, Jon Thompson on saxophone and Department Coordinator Scot Hornick on bass. Mercer music technology student and president of the MCCC Music Club Camryn LeCain, helped to set up the technical equipment for the live broadcast. Each instructor, socially distanced in their CM156 classroom, used one of music’s most powerful tools – listening – to, quite literally, play off of each other’s musical cues in the completely improvised live event.

From left, Jim Holton, Scot Hornick, Jon Thompson, and Joe Falcey | Photo provided by Elizabeth Rzasa

Like many musicians, these faculty educators and performers have been hit substantially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. With canceled gigs and classes switched to a remote instruction format, the motivation to perform has been difficult to maintain.

“When [the pandemic] started, I started doing some free improv in my basement; it was great, but then I got depressed,” said Hornick. “I didn’t even want to touch my bass because it reminded me so much of what I was missing.”

Although fortunate for the ability to provide remote education to MCCC students, many of these faculty performers couldn’t bare to look at their instruments for months without a daily reminder of the challenges they were facing in their career.

“I’ve been spread a bit thin,” said Falcey. “It got really panicky there for awhile. I managed to keep 11 [private instruction] students, but I got hit hard. I got hit real hard.”

Through the uncertain times, the MCCC jazz faculty members pushed themselves to stay active within their musical careers. During a year of minimal entertainment, it was vital for the musicians to play – audience or no audience – to keep up their skills and technique.

“When the pandemic first started I did a few [saxophone performance] live streams,” said Thompson. “That kind of kept me busy, kept my chops up. It was an interesting experience.”

Holton added, “As soon as the COVID hit I started taking piano lessons. It was a nice motivation for me. It keeps me incentivized.”

Although the last year abruptly challenged the MCCC Music Department, Wednesday’s performances offered a glimmer of hope for the future of music at MCCC. With around 40 attendees, including MCCC’s own president, Dr. Jianping Wang, and a variety of MCCC alumni, the Mercer jazz faculty are finding joy in spreading music to the community once again.

“We’ve been through so much, and my gosh I feel so good,” said Hornick. “We’re given something here that is restoring my soul, so hopefully it can restore a little bit of your soul.”

Falcey added, “I feel like I see a little light at the end of the tunnel.”

To watch the live recording of MCCC’s Music Department Jazz Faculty Masterclass, CLICK HERE. 

To learn more about the MCCC Music Department, follow their Facebook page HERE.

For questions or more information regarding the MCCC Music Department, contact Department Coordinator Scot Hornick at hornicks@mccc.edu or Teaching Assistant Elizabeth Rzasa at rzasae@mccc.edu.