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The Live at Five concert series showcases the diversity and musicianship of McNally Smith faculty, backed by some of the best musicians in the Twin Cities. Concerts are FREE and open to the public. Each concert begins with a reception at 5:00 p.m., followed by the faculty performance at 6:00 p.m.


Steve Jennings – Tuesday, April 12

Steve JenningsPhoto: Jamie Miles

McNally Smith College of Music proudly presents: LIVE AT FIVE — featuring drummer Steve Jennings and a host of talented guests on Tuesday, April 12 at 6:00 p.m. in the History Theatre. This FREE and open to the public concert begins with a 5:00 p.m. social hour in the McNally Smith Atrium, featuring a performance by fingerstyle guitarist Matteo Palmer.

As the Department Head of Ensembles at McNally Smith, Jennings oversees 30-plus student groups performing music in a wide variety of genres. For his Live at Five debut, Jennings performs four very distinct live music sets, featuring renowned guest artists including:

  • Gospel Splash (Contemporary Gospel Music): With the talents of GRAMMY award-winning vocalist Jamecia Bennett (Sounds Of Blackness, REAL MUZIC, mother of Season 5 American Idol finalist Paris Bennett), GRAMMY award-winning keyboardist Billy Steele (Sounds Of Blackness), vocalists Julius Collins (Prince, Greazy Meal), Dennis Spears and Yolande Bruce (Moore By Four), and bassist Yohannes Tona (Dr. Mambo’s Combo, Foreign Motion), Gospel Splash features keyboardist and band leader Sanford Moore (founder, director and arranger for award-winning vocal jazz ensemble Moore by Four) and choir members from Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Drummer Jennings collaborates regularly with Moore at Minneapolis-based Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Hitchville (Modern Country): One of the Upper Midwest’s premiere modern country bands, Hitchville’s “Even When It’s Bad It’s Good” rocketed to #1 on the iHeartRadio Top 5 Countdown just a few weeks after its 2015 release. Jennings joined Hitchville on an interim basis in 2014 after original drummer (and 2011 McNally Smith alum) Jeremy Harvey left the group to join popular orchestral indie rock band Cloud Cult.
  • CityView (Jazz Fusion): In 2008, Jennings founded instrumental jazz fusion septet Story City, which released the critically-acclaimed Time And Materials album and live video Loops In Time, and performed at several high profile jazz festivals. Re-booted for 2016 as CityView, this group of Twin Cities jazz heavyweights features fellow McNally Smith faculty Sean Turner (Department Head, Keyboard), David Schmalenberger (Assistant Department Head, Percussion) and Shai Hayo (Percussion), as well as world-renowned bassist Enrique Toussaint (Paul Anka, Ivan Lins, Sacbé).
  • Randy Sabien (Jazz & Blues): Acclaimed violinist and fiddler Randy Sabien is Department Head of Strings at McNally Smith, and has been a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion and Austin City Limits. This special jazz- and blues-focused ensemble also includes fellow McNally Smith faculty members Mike Salow (Guitar) and Shai Hayo (Percussion).

About Matteo Palmer

McNally Smith Composition and Music Production major Matteo Palmer has been recognized internationally for his guitar playing, which the Vermont native began at the age of eight. In 2015, Palmer was a featured performer at the 11th annual Zone Music Reporter Awards Show in New Orleans. Palmer’s sophomore album Embers (scheduled release May 2016) is produced by GRAMMY award-winning guitarist and Windham Hill founder Will Ackerman, and features 6-time GRAMMY award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen and GRAMMY award-winning violinist Charlie Bisharat.

About Steve Jennings

Artistic, energetic, and musical drummer Steve Jennings has experience with myriad styles including rock, classical, jazz, funk, gospel, country and blues. Growing up in a musical household in Northfield, MN, Jennings studied piano, violin and trumpet in addition to being drawn to the drums at a young age. As a teenager, he saved enough money to split the cost of a used Gretsch octaplus drum set with his parents. The basement became the woodshed at a time when playing along with albums meant setting the needle on the platter and getting to the downbeat in time.

After graduating from Luther College, Jennings’ passion for music increased while touring the US and Canada for six years with various rock and dance bands. Since Steve’s first studio drumming experience on “From the Land of Dreams” in 1991, he has worked professionally in the Twin Cities, including the Penumbra Theater productions: Dinah Was, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Get Ready, and the soulful and seasonal Black Nativity. As a producer with his own Jazztet, Steve debuted the recording Colours in 1995; co-produced and recorded Over 10 and Back for More, and New Tracks with the Over & Back Band; and in 2012 co-produced the Story City fusion group recording, Time and Materials.

Jennings joined the faculty at McNally Smith College of Music in the fall of 2009 as the Ensemble Department Head. This past year has provided new educational clinic and festival opportunities at Minnesota State University, Mankato and NDSU in Fargo, ND, where Steve debuted his “Be Intentional: Concepts to Act Upon as a Rhythm Section Musician” masterclass.


Live at Five Concert Highlights