Xavier's Jazz Ensemble director is performing at the inauguration for President-Elect Barack Obama
John DeFoor played at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996
John DeFoor, director for Jazz Studies at Xavier University, has been asked to direct the National Jazz Band during the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremonies for President-Elect Barack Obama.
“Sixteen and 12 years ago, I played for the Clinton inaugurations,” says DeFoor. “Clinton is a big jazz fan. Someone asked why I direct for the Democrats and not the Republicans. I guess the Democrats are the jazz fans and the Republicans like country music.”
DeFoor has only recently been invited, so he doesn’t have all the details yet. During the Clinton inaugurations, he directed an all-star band of college and university students from around the D.C. area. This time, he expects to do something similar, which could include directing five trumpets, four trombones and five saxophones plus piano, guitar, bass and drums. Tents are set up along the Mall with various performances in each. DeFoor gets to choose the music and plans to include some of his own compositions.
DeFoor has class on the morning of Jan. 17 but refuses to miss it, so he plans to fly out in the afternoon. Classes are cancelled on Monday, Jan. 19, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which makes him available for the inauguration. He will be back in time for Wednesday classes.
The Xavier Jazz Ensemble is in its 26th year. It has released four CDs in the last decade —the only collegiate band to do so. Its last, "Sweet Love," was a tribute to local jazz legend Oscar Treadwell, their most ardent promoter, who died in April 2006. Another CD, "Make Me Smile," has been recorded and is due out later this year.
DeFoor has been a performer, arranger, composer, critic, historian, conductor and educator since the 1950s. He played and arranged for bands including Billy May, Woody Herman, Les Brown and Harry James. He has taught at Xavier since 1983, where he has been the principal designer of jazz courses and the director for the jazz ensemble while continuing to participate in the development of contemporary idioms. DeFoor has led his band, Rara Avis, at the NFL commissioner’s annual pre-Super Bowl party since Super Bowl XI in 1977.
For those who would like to hear the band, the Xavier Jazz Ensemble’s spring concert schedule is:
• Sunday, March 22, 8:15 p.m. in the Long Recital Hall in Edgecliff Hall on the Xavier campus
• Friday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. at the Gallagher Student Center on the Xavier campus
• Friday, April 17, 7:30 p.m. at the Gallagher Student Center
• Friday, April 24, 7:30 p.m. at The Lyric, 8719 Reading Road in Reading
• Sunday, April 26, 8:15 p.m. in the Long Recital Hall