Neil Wetzel, Director of Jazz Studies
What is your role at the College and what is something many may not know about the work you do?
I am the Director of Jazz Studies and will become the chair of the Music Department this summer. I am also the Education Director for the SteelStacks High School Jazz Band Showcase TV show and am listed on IMDB (International Movie Database). I am also the Director of the Karel Velebny Jazz Workshop Big Band in the Czech Republic.
My favorite spot on campus is…
Foy Hall on South (Church Street) Campus, because that is where I’ve heard the best student performances in my career, and because this is where I get to work creatively with students.
What’s your favorite Moravian College tradition?
Vespers because of the college-wide celebration it provides. There is a festive feeling at this time of year, and the best part is the opportunity to see and reconnect with alumni. Including the greater community in such a positive and festive event just amplifies the good feelings.
One thing that many of my colleagues don’t know about me outside of my Moravian College responsibilities is …
The Wetzel family has been in the area since the early 1700’s. I am sharing this because there are lots of relatives around and I am probably related to you if you have Pennsylvania Dutch (German) in your lineage and your family has been in the Lehigh Valley region for hundreds of years.
My typical weekend goes something like this:
Playing gigs with the Philadelphia Funk Authority—I have been the sax player for this group for about a year. Sometimes we play 2-3 nights a week but mostly on weekends. We play in clubs, festivals and private events (such as the Moravian College Night of Stars). Then Sundays I collapse.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not on campus?
Spend time with my family, because as my son is now graduating from college and starting on his own life, I realize that our time “all together” will only diminish as he begins a career, forms his own family, and someday devotes time to his own wife and kids.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
When I was in college, our wind ensemble conductor told us in a rehearsal, “Your competition for jobs when you graduate will be your teachers.” That really hit me and motivated me to work harder.
Wild Card: Share a fun fact—anything!
Charlie Parker, the great jazz alto saxophonist, practiced a ridiculous amount. He once shared in an interview that as a young man, he would practice 7-11 hours a day. He did that over a period of 3-4 years! Wow, can you imagine having that kind of time to practice!?!?!?
I can never resist a good _______.
Piece of pizza. The more toppings the better.
What makes you happy?
Listening to Chet Baker (jazz trumpet and voice—check him out). He was once thought to be the next James Dean for his Hollywood good looks, but never became famous due to problems with drug addiction.