The ComboNation ensembles held their fall concert at The Bluff on Oct. 5, making it the third performance the group has conducted at the Highland bar.
The root word of the program is "combo," so for unknowing students, your first question may be, who or what makes up ComboNation?
"It's all of our University of Memphis Scheidt School of Music combos, and they can range from jazz to hip-hop to R&B. It's all small groups," said ComboNation instructor and Director of Jazz Studies Jack Cooper.
Seven combos make up the current ComboNation lineup, and the groups are split among three different professors within the jazz music program–Jack Cooper, Sam Shoupe, and Michael Shults. However, the program has had eight to twelve combos in previous years.
ComboNation, which is technically a class taught at the university, gives the students who make up the groups the opportunity to show what they are learning in their classes at the Scheidt School of Music. The groups meet for an hour every week. The students then apply what they learn from their classes by performing publicly in real-world settings, including a bar.
Before The Bluff, ComboNation performed their shows at Newby's. Before then, they performed at the Harris Auditorium. Following the pandemic, they moved to The Bluff on Highland Avenue, where the shows are free admission and attended by students and patrons of the establishment.
The groups who performed featured various styles, including jazz, R&B, and covers of popular songs. Each group performed two songs, and instructor Shoupe played the keyboard for a few of the performances.
"We were doing our concerts at the Harris Auditorium, and only parents were showing up," said Shoupe. "So we decided to give our students a more real-world experience in a real, live club where there's always the danger that some drunk is gonna scream out 'Reverb!' or something like that. We want to get them as much real-world experience as possible."
Each semester, the combos perform on stage as their midterm and final, with both performances being held at The Bluff. Their final performance this semester is scheduled for Nov. 20.