Geneva Jazz Ensemble keeps art form alive with varying member ages

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GENEVA – All was quiet at the Pepper Valley Clubhouse in Geneva until most members of the 19-piece Geneva Jazz Ensemble arrived for their two-hour practice.

“Hit it,” said band director Christopher Werve, and the room exploded with the well-known Count Basie tune “Hay Burner.”

Alexandra Schroeder, 57, of Geneva, who plays trumpet, said she started the band in 2001 after six months of lessons.

“My neighbor was having a garage sale, and I mentioned to her I always wanted to learn how to play the trumpet, so she just gave it to me,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder talked to her son’s middle school band teacher and asked if he would direct a band if she could get it started through the Geneva Park District. He agreed.

Seven people showed up for what was supposed to be a fun summer band – but everyone wanted to keep playing. The group separated from the park district, and band members Nancy and Timothy Werve arranged for them to play in their subdivision clubhouse in Pepper Valley in exchange for performances at the subdivision’s annual picnic, Schroeder said.

After the band teacher could not continue as director, they played without a director for years until they recruited the Werves’ son as director while he was still a college student.

Christopher Werve, 26, of Aurora, used to substitute as a saxophone player for the band starting when he was 11, he said. A 2007 graduate of Geneva High School, he graduated from Northern
Illinois University in 2012 with degrees in music education and performance with emphasis in jazz studies. He is also a middle school band teacher in Oswego School District 308.

“They would ask me to come play with the band, and I would sit in and help,” Christopher Werve said. “Instead of being in the band, I decided to stand in front of the band and lead the rehearsal.”

Band members range in age from 26 to 70 and come from the area for rehearsals and performances.

“The band has really progressed,” Christopher Werve said. “It used to be just for fun. Now it’s real deal music. ... It’s special since my parents are in the group and kind of intimidating because I’m younger than everybody. There’s a lot of really good musicians and they do follow directions. … They are really good at being independent musicians.”

The jazz band plays at nursing and retirement homes, private parties and outdoor venues.

The band also performs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. the last Thursday of each month at Cooper's Corner, 27W150 Roosevelt Road, Winfield.

“It’s jazz and big band music,” Christopher Werve said. “Not a lot of people listen to it anymore, so it’s cool to have a 19-piece jazz ensemble who want to keep this art form alive.”

Information about the band is available online at or by sending email to

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Geneva Jazz Ensemble members:

• Director Christopher Werve, Aurora, saxophone, clarinet and flute.

• Rick Turner, Geneva, baritone saxophone.

• Bob Siemienkowicz, Aurora, tenor saxophone.

• Matt Todd, Aurora, alto saxophone.

• Andy Hocker, Batavia, alto saxophone.

• Glen West, Geneva, tenor saxophone.

• Jerry Oehler, Lisle, trombone.

• Tim Werve, Geneva, trombone.

• John Keiser, Aurora, trombone.

• Darian Gier, Wheaton, trombone.

• Ken Kramer, Glen Ellyn, trumpet.

• Alexandra Schroeder, Geneva, trumpet.

• Ron Capriotti, Arlington Heights, trumpet.

• Brian Germano, Batavia, trumpet.

• Paul Brouillette, Geneva, guitar.

• Chuck Osborne, Geneva, bass.

• Jeff Utterback, Sugar Grove, drums.

• Nancy Werve, Geneva, piano.

• Donna Falk, Geneva, vocalist

Source: Geneva Jazz Ensemble