Now in its eighth season, the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra (TCJO) is the resident professional ensemble of the Turner Jazz Center at Drake University. A not-for-profit organization, the TCJO is dedicated to authentic, high caliber performances of American jazz and particularly the music of the big band tradition. The organization is committed to the promotion and preservation of both the historic and contemporary repertoire of this original American music.
The ensemble is a 17-piece big band led by Founding Artistic Director Andrew Classen, Professor of Trumpet in the Department of Music at Drake and the Fred & Patty Turner Professor of Jazz Studies. Members are all highly accomplished professional musicians and include some of the most prominent artists and jazz educators in Iowa. Several members are inductees and special honorees of the Des Moines Jazz Hall of Fame.
The Turner Center Jazz Orchestra is unique among similar jazz ensembles in the Midwest through its production of a series of six subscription concerts each season in Des Moines. Through its regular subscription performances, educational activities and community service projects the TCJO serves a wide audience and has been invited to play at the Governor’s Gala at the State Historical Building; for the Iowa Bandmasters Annual Conference; for the Concert Prelude before the Des Moines Symphony’s annual Yankee Doodle Pops at the State Capitol; at the Wilson Performing Arts Center in Red Oak, Iowa; has collaborated with both David Berger of Jazz at Lincoln Center and Ryan Truesdell of the Gil Evans Project in two unique concerts at the Turner Jazz Center; and recently performed a tribute concert to Louis Armstrong at Salisbury House & Gardens in Des Moines.
In addition to its research and curatorship of the original big band libraries through concerts paying homage to such jazz pioneers as Henderson, Ellington, Basie, Gil Evans, Kenton, Jones/Lewis, Herman and Buddy Rich, the ensemble also supports the creation of new works for big band, particularly works composed and arranged by Iowa composers and arrangers. The TCJO performed with Downbeat Magazine’s Jazz Vocalist of the Year Kurt Elling for the Des Moines Civic Music Association’s 90th Anniversary Season Finale and collaborates with several of the Midwest’s most prominent jazz vocalists including Elaine Dame, Scott Smith, Sue Oatts, Kathy Wade, Rose Colella and Max Wellman; and this season will pay tribute to Ella Fitzgerald – at 100, featuring Tina Haase Findlay.
In 2015 the TCJO was honored with a Special Recognition Award at the Greater Des Moines Community Jazz Center’s annual Des Moines Jazz Hall of Fame celebration and in the spring of 2016 the TCJO released its first CD recording, “Class n’ Jazz”, a compilation of the original compositions of Founding Artistic Director Andy Classen, including his multi-movement Waveland Suite.