Encore Fall 2016


Jazz in Northern Europe

During the Festinord Gala Night in Stockholm, Sweden, Synthesis accompanies guest soloist Louise Ringheim Foss.

Synthesis continues to dazzle audiences around the globe, leaving its mark on the world of jazz with a repertoire that has both the band and audience members dancing. But the music is not the only thing that makes Synthesis so appealing to audiences worldwide. In addition to performances, Synthesis band members make the most of their opportunities to interact and connect with individuals from the areas they tour. This summer during their tour to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sweden, Synthesis exceeded expectations as the group overcame obstacles, made history, gave back to the community, created new friendships, and performed amazing shows.

On their journey, Synthesis performed in market squares, festivals, historic restaurants, and concert halls and accompanied guest performers Louise Ringheim Foss and Lembit Saarsalu. In Riga, Latvia, Synthesis members had the chance to play for government officials and prominent community members at the opening of a chapel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The students’ faces light up when they talk about their visits with Church members. “It was very cool to see how alive these people are in their faith,” says trombone player Marcus Anderson.

Synthesis jazz singer Brigitta Teuscher (right) greets a young fan at the historic Kaivohuone Restaurant in Helsinki, Finland.

Each show came with a different opportunity and a different challenge. Because of rainy skies and outdoor venues, Synthesis had an ongoing battle with the weather. The group learned how to be flexible with their schedules and remain optimistic during times of opposition. Trumpet player Abby Castleton remained positive by using the extra time from the delays to build relationships with the audience and community members. She says, “It rained on purpose so that we could reach out to more people.”

Throughout their tour, Synthesis members showed their dedication by getting back up after falling down—literally. During a performance in Vaasa, Finland, Synthesis played “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman as a part of the encore. In the middle of playing a captivating extended solo, Synthesis director Ray Smith ran out of breath and collapsed onstage. Even in this shocking moment, Smith knew that they needed to finish their performance, so he completed his solo while sitting on the ground, and the band joined in to end the song with a bang. The band members were bursting to share the experience: “[That was] one of the classiest moments I’ve witnessed during a performance,” says artist manager Troy Streeter. Taking this as a learning experience, jazz singer Brigitta Teuscher says, “[In that moment,] Ray taught me that no matter what happens, I can always come back.”

Synthesis performs at the Saulkrasti Jazz Festival in Riga, Latvia. Photo by Kristaps Kitners.

Despite the setbacks, Synthesis had many successful moments, including one that will go down in history. As the last act of the night at the Saulkrasti Jazz Festival in Latvia, the band performed an encore and exited the stage, but the audience members remained even after the lights were turned off. They crowded around the stage and clapped until Synthesis came out again for a second encore. “The managers backstage told me that this was the first time in 19 years that the crowd wouldn’t go home when the lights were turned out but insisted on an [additional] encore,” Smith recounts.

In Estonia, Synthesis members performed at a benefit concert to raise awareness for Estonian foster families and were touched by the words of Jane Snaith, who has dedicated her life to raising awareness and money to help these struggling families. “I was amazed by her spirit,” says trombone player Daniel Burt. “We were all in awe at her life’s mission.”

A crowd braves the rain to hear Synthesis perform in Old Rauma, Finland.

Another highlight of the tour was their performance at the black-tie gala in Stockholm, Sweden, for the 50th anniversary of Festinord—an LDS young single adult conference with approximately 900 participants from more than 30 countries. Synthesis not only performed a lively show but also participated in the conference activities throughout the week. Regarding the people she met and what she learned at the conference, Castleton says, “We are unified. We are similar despite our differences.”

To summarize the tour, Teuscher says, “All in all, we are just a bunch of jazz cats who want to jam. . . .  When you get a group of people like Synthesis together, you’re going to enjoy it, you’re going to love it, and you’re going to be on the edge of your seat.”