Annual holiday concert shows off jazz ensemble’s talent



Mikaela Krimm

In one of many ongoing efforts to fill the University’s campus with the spirit of Christmas, the Jazz Band performed its annual holiday concert this past Friday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Connelly Center. The concert was a mash-up of various classics and modern renditions of songs that remain steeped in holiday tradition. 

The band kicked off with “Big Band Christmas,” easing the audience into the mood before following up with the groovy “Santa Baby.” The audience was receptive to solos by guitarist Chris Neely and saxophonist Josh Procario-Foley, whose smooth tone and crystal-clear sound perfectly captured the spirit of the piece.  

As a freshman, Procario-Foley’s level of musical involvement is typical of the Villanova Jazz Band members, almost all of whom participate in the regular band as well. Other soloists featured in the concert were saxophonists Josh Koss and Matt Nelson, and sibling trumpeters Anthony and Johnny DiVelario. 

Ethan Swain, a freshman from Connecticut who is in his 11th year of playing the bass, says he was “really satisfied” with the performance. “It was encouraging because we’ve been making progress with each performance this semester. [This one] was definitely the tightest job, in terms of keeping our time and our dynamics.” Among the pieces the band performed were the Christmas staples “Santa Baby,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and a wonderfully exotic, contemporary take on the English classic “Greensleeves.” This last song was a fun showpiece, as it cleverly alternated between swing and Latin beats. 

Led by Bill Whitaker, whom Swain calls “a real fun character,” the Jazz Band amassed a solid gathering at Belle Air Terrace, where every table was filled and many in the audience were standing. The crowd was enthusiastic, not hesitating to cheer and holler in a show of support for their favorite soloists. “We all showed up that night and there was a great crowd,” Swain says. “There was great energy in that venue.” 

Nelson, a freshman from Long Island, can’t express enough how positive his experience has been thus far. “Bill [Whitaker]’s been with the program for thirty-plus years, and he always tells us that this is the best Jazz band we’ve had in a while; from the very beginning we just clicked together. There’s a strong camaraderie within the group.”

Villanova’s Jazz Band hosts three major concerts on campus each year. Besides these performances, the band also engages in many musical events at venues in the Philly area and beyond. If you missed Friday’s concert—or truly enjoyed the little holiday jaunt—be sure to check the newsletters for upcoming performances. The band’s final event of the semester will be a concert at the monastery this Monday, though this concert will not be open to the public.  

There will be plenty of opportunities after break however, when the Jazz Band will have more chances to display how invaluable an addition to the musical community at the University it really is. The spirit and vigor present in Friday night’s concert was clearly a byproduct of some seriously talented players, who possess an undeniable vibe. 

In the words of Nelson, “We just have a common love of making music.”