July 11, 2017
If you missed the brand-new Philly POPS BIG Band during their debut performance at Philadelphia’s Wawa Welcome America July 4th Celebration, come to West Chester on July 20 to listen to their leader and some of his colleagues at the free annual Criterions Reunion Concert. These WCU alumni were the cream of the crop while they were student musicians and all have continued to excel as performers and teachers.
Matt Gallagher ’97, who leads the BIG Band and is the Philly POPS principal trumpet, will share director’s duties at the Criterions Reunion Concert. Gallagher chairs the trumpet department at University of the Arts and is director of its “Z” Big Band. He’s performed with Broadway show productions, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Bernadette Peters, the O’Jays, NFL Films, and recently recorded for Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, R. Kelly, Jennifer Hudson, and LL Cool J.
Dave DiValentino ’03, also a trumpeter in the Philly POPS BIG Band as well as North Penn High School jazz band director, will return to campus for the reunion concert as well.
Lee Southall ’64, who was Criterions leader in his senior year and directs and plays trombone in the reunion group, conceived of the concert 32 years ago and has organized it nearly every year since. It’s a two-day event, with rehearsals on Wednesday and Thursday — both free and open to the public — plus the concert itself. Southall has been sharing some of the director’s rehearsal and concert duties in recent years and will hand the baton to both Gallagher and DiValentino at times this year as well, saying, “Both guys are getting accolades. I’m going to count on them to ease my load in the reunion by rehearsing and directing some of the time and for security of the future of the reunion.”
Southall and a half-dozen Criterions reunion regulars are also in “The Last Big Band,” a popular jazz group in the Reading area, which has a standing Tuesday night gig in Phoenixville.
The free concert takes place Thursday, July 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall in Philips Memorial Building. Rehearsals on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning in the concert hall are also free and open to the public.
The Criterions reunion coincides intentionally with the WCU Summer Jazz Camp, a week-long residential program that runs from Sunday, July 16, through Friday, July 21, this year. Students in the camp’s honors track have the opportunity to open for the Criterions alumni, and several former Criterions teach workshops at the camp, along with WCU School of Music faculty.
The Criterions student band has been active on campus since the 1920s, when it was established as a dance band, making it the longest-running university jazz band in the country.