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Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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From Classical to Jazzical | Doreen Ketchens performs with MSU Wind Symphony

Jake Rhodes
Doreen Ketchens performs at The Wharton Center on Sept. 24, 2023.

“I love this stuff; I live for this stuff,” is how Doreen Ketchens described her feelings about jazz. On Sept. 24, the Wharton Center hosted a jazz/classical symphony performance by the MSU Wind Symphony featuring Ketchens, a New Orleans jazz clarinetist. 

Ketchens, who has a doctorate degree in music from Five Towns College, is equivalent to the female Louis Armstrong. Ketchens has been playing clarinet for the last 46 years and transitioned from classical to jazz for love, and now she couldn’t imagine her life any other way. 

In her interview with the Impact, she told the story of the first time she considered playing the unfamiliar style of jazz she had grown up listening to. She fell in love with a tuba player in college and he had a jazz band. One day they saw people playing on the streets of New Orleans, where he mentioned the possibility of them doing the same.

“‘You must be crazy. I’m in college — I’m not playing on the street,’” she told her husband. “But love makes you do crazy things, and it became a practice ground, you know, and it just blossomed into what we have today, which I would’ve never figured in my whole life,” Ketchens said. 

Ketchens brought her unique sound to MSU and shocked the audience. She performed the songs “House Of The Rising Sun,” “What a Wonderful World” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” with the Wind Symphony.

In her performance, the New Orleans influence was distinct in her voice when she first sang “House Of The Rising Sun.” It was smooth with a hint of rasp. When playing her clarinet, she had highly impressive breath control, as if her lungs could hold the notes infinitely. She rocked back and forth with the melody, eyes squeezed shut, playing from deep within her soul. You could tell she enjoyed every minute of playing this song with her improvisations. 

“When I was in college I had to see what we were playing this season and stuff like that, but not now, man. I get to play what I want and if I want to repeat the song I get to repeat the song, and just, oh man, it’s fantastic. Jazz to me means a wonderful, fun gift,” Ketchens said. 

Not only is “What a Wonderful World” a classic piece, but when Ketchens started to play, it made the hearts of the audience swoon. Personally, this song makes me deeply emotional, and Ketchens had no problem making this song her own. 

“I’m so grateful to be chosen to do this, and I’m so happy people love it. I love them for loving it, and like I said, as long as I’m able to I’m gonna keep doing it,” Ketchens said. 

She ended the concert with the first song she ever performed, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” This song kept the audience on their toes the entire time. Her clarinet enraptured the crowd; even the symphony performers couldn’t stop moving — whether they were bobbing their heads or tapping their feet. 

Not only did jazz influence Ketchens, but she changed the way classical musicians view their instruments today. 

“It’s gonna move you, just like anything, any kind of music really. Even music you don’t understand, you know — you listen long enough, you’re gonna find something in there that just moves you,” Ketchens said.

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About the Contributors
Bella Short
Bella Short, Volunteer
Bella is a writer and volunteer for Impact. She is from the small town of Barrington, Illinois. She is also a journalist for the Red Cedar Log, the official MSU yearbook. She is graduating in 2026, majoring in journalism with a minor in broadcasting. Bella is very passionate about sharing people’s stories with the world. Other than writing about music, she loves to watch cheesy Netflix rom-coms, play Sudoku and sing songs that are stuck in her head out loud. Some of her favorite artists that she enjoys listening to are Frank Sinatra, WILLOW, Elton John, Sarah Kinsley, Weezer and Adele. She can be reached at [email protected].
Jake Rhodes
Jake Rhodes, Digital Media Director
Jake (he/him) is Senior studying Computer Science. He is the Digital Media Director at Impact and has been involved since Fall 2021. In the rare case that he's not at the station, he's probably somewhere taking photos, at a concert or both. "A year from now, we'll all be gone / All our friends will move away" - The Head And The Heart

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