Former Professor and Director at Keene State College (KSC) Don Baldini left big shoes to fill when he retired last semester.
Former student of Baldini, Steve Cady, has taken over as KSC’s Jazz Ensemble Director and, according to his students, he has only helped improve the program.
KSC senior and Jazz Ensemble member Zach Joy said Cady and Baldini have drastically different styles in both directing and jazz music.
“With Baldini, we did more run-throughs with each song, but with Steve, it was more working a section and then putting it away until next time,” Joy said.
The only other senior in the performance, Mackey Pope, said it was a “doosey” shifting directors halfway through the year.
“You know you have this one director for four years and then all of a sudden it’s, ‘Hey, here is your new best friend. He’s gonna tell you what to do for the next semester.’ So it was a bit of a struggle for the first couple weeks, but he’s a great guy…and once we got used to him, the energy was back,” Pope said.
Pope echoed Joy about Cady’s style, explaining Baldini was simply from a different era.
“He [Baldini] came at us with, ‘Look like this, sound like this,’ whereas Steve came in and was like, ‘Alright guys, I want to know what you sound like and then we’re going to work with that,’” Pope said. “The difference really is Baldini wanted to make us into something and Steve is taking us and making our own sound.”
While Joy and Pope both agreed the switch to Cady took some getting used to, KSC junior and Jazz Ensemble member Eric Dill said getting a new director helped him as a musician.
Cady’s modern style was what Dill had been wanting to play since he joined the ensemble as a first-year.
“It’s been a whole lot better,” Dill said.
“He’s [Cady] more modern and down-to-earth with us. When he [Cady] left Keene, he played in a lot of different jazz ensembles and orchestras, so he has all the knowledge. It’s really nice to be able to connect with him.”
Dill said the only thing that took getting used to for him was the way Cady directs, as compared to Baldini.
“I mean we’re going from around an 80-year-old guy to around 38-year-old guy, but it’s definitely different to see the different insides, meaning how they count off [and] how they start a piece, which makes a huge difference,” Dill said.
As an alumnus of KSC and graduate of the music department, Cady said he was encouraged by music faculty to apply for the position.
However, he added that the position being at KSC was not the main reason he found himself applying.
“It was definitely an honor. Don ran the band for 24 years and it’s no small thing to take over at the helm there,” Cady said.
“The most important thing for me is the music and the students. It’s awesome that I have this job at Keene State and that I went here, but no matter where these guys and gals are, they would still be important. They work super hard and have really elevated themselves musically throughout the term and that was my goal.”
Joy and Pope said they were both happy with how their last concert was performed, regardless of the short time they have known Cady.
“It was a little bittersweet, but I am glad that we ended on this one…it really was a good one to end on,” Joy said.
Overall, Cady said his first performance as a director of KSC’s Jazz Ensemble could not have gone better.
“I could not be more proud of the students and their focus,” Cady said.
“We really reached our high point. We weren’t over-prepared, we weren’t under-prepared; we were just at the right mark at the right time.”
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org