Mallory Meyer, a first-year music student and basketball player, stands in front of Alexander Gymnasium with her trombone. She will perform Nov. 5 as part of Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend and will debut Nov. 6 with Lawrence’s women’s basketball team. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

There are many reasons why students choose Lawrence. For Mallory Meyer, a first-year from Battle Ground, Washington, the deciding factor was the opportunity to play in Lawrence’s world-class Conservatory while also competing as a member of the women’s basketball team.

Meyer’s musical instrument of choice is the trombone, and she is currently the only first-year in the award-winning Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE), directed by Patty Darling.

“When I found out I was the only first-year in the band, I was surprised, and a little nervous about jumping in with all the amazing players,” Meyer said. “But being surrounded by players like that makes you step up to try to match their level, and, although challenging, it’s been great so far.”

LUJE carries a long-standing reputation of excellence. It has been nationally recognized multiple times in the annual Downbeat awards, among the most prestigious national honors in jazz education.

“We don’t have first-year students in LUJE very often, and Mallory’s outstanding and mature musicianship, spirit, and dedication are greatly admired by everyone in the ensemble,” Darling said.

Read more about LUJE here.

Meyer’s passion for both jazz and basketball will be on full display on the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6. The LUJE will take part in the annual Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend, performing with world-renowned composer Dave Rivello at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 in Memorial Chapel (open to the Lawrence community only; available to the public virtually). Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team will kick off its season with a Nov. 6 game against Carthage College at 3 p.m. in Alexander Gymnasium (open only to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff).

Meyer, who is pursuing a bachelor of musical arts (B.M.A) degree, began playing the trombone when she was in fifth grade. She played in jazz bands throughout high school while also taking private lessons. She fell in love with playing and knew that she wanted to continue her musical education at a university with a reputable jazz program.

Lawrence fit the bill in every way. When Downbeat held its Student Music Awards last year, it created a new undergraduate category due to the pandemic—Asynchronous Large Jazz Ensemble. Lawrence won the category, marking the 30th time the jazz program has been honored by Downbeat in the last four decades, spanning categories that have included large jazz ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance, jazz vocal group, and Latin group.

Jazz Weekend, being presented to the public virtually this year due to ongoing pandemic concerns, annually brings in top jazz talents to perform with and alongside Conservatory students and faculty.

Meyer’s talents don’t stop there, of course. She also started playing basketball about the same time she picked up the trombone. The 5-foot-10 forward now plays for the Vikings, and, much like rehearsals, practices have been going well.

“Getting to know everyone and just getting to play with them has been really nice, especially after not playing for a while,” Meyer said.

Juggling rehearsals and performances in the Conservatory along with practices and games in the gym has been challenging. But Meyer said she has taken it all in stride; she grew up having to manage her time between her school work, jazz, and basketball.

For Meyer, the hardest transition is being far from home and her family, but her time spent with LUJE and playing basketball with her teammates has helped to alleviate her homesickness, she said. And although missing her family, she wouldn’t trade the experiences she’s had at Lawrence so far.

“I just like the creative side of it all, being able to create music how I want and having fun on the basketball court with my teammates,” she said.

Ticket information for the Jazz Weekend concerts can be found at Lawrence University Box Office.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.