Jazz in the Living Room

By Sharen Aoun

“Jazz in the Living Room,” the 4th major music production by Dr. Martin Loyato, took place at the Lebanese American University, Irwin Theatre. The event occurred over the course of two consecutive days: Wednesday April 22 and Thursday April 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm.

Both days were almost fully booked.

Before the show, people were starting to gather in front of the theatre searching for the ushers to get their tickets. While, others were trying to figure out which musician belongs to the caricatures drawn on the posters. “I don’t even look like myself,” joked Sandra Azki, one of the show performers.

“Jazz in the Living Room” consisted of six LAU students who were performing alongside Dr. Loyato, an assistant professor at the Lebanese American University.

The performers are part of a course called “Music/Vocal Ensemble PFA 315” given at the university by Dr. Loyato. Some of the students performing in this year’s music production are taking the course during this semester. The other students took the course during previous semesters and came back not for the credits, but to keep developing their music skills and musicianship.

The concert included 11 songs that were chosen by Dr. Loyato and the performers. It lasted one hour and 15 minutes. “We all pitched in some ideas. But, the final list was chosen by Martin,” said Karl Bou Rjeily, who plays the guitar, percussion, and ukulele during the performance. The genre that dominated was jazz. Some songs were intense, “fun”, and others were “soft”. Dr. Martin Loyato revealed, “Jazz is a language. Not all of the students knew how to read music, yet they got immerse into this new language and were pushed to try to speak the basics of it.”

“To me Jazz is the sound of people negotiating change. My hope is that the students performing understood the philosophy behind the music. Perhaps; they may apply some of these music rules as a metaphor in the daily lives.

They have come a long way and they really did a good job”, adds Dr. Loyato.

To me Jazz is the sound of people negotiating change. My hope is that the students performing understood the philosophy behind the music.

The students and Dr. Loyato have been rehearsing for the entire semester. Excessive and consecutive rehearsals occurred everyday (including weekends), one week before the performance. From choosing the “living room” as the set, to picking out the songs, to turning it into a beautiful show, everything was planned from A to Z. When asked “why the living room?”, Dr. Loyato replied, “after my last major music production, Vadis Quo, I told the team that I want the next production to be something chill, smooth, and comfy.” “I want to be, literally, sitting on a couch the entire show and playing music,” he added.

The musicians played some jazz hits that are known to the audience such as La Vie En Rose, All of me, and Cheek to Cheek. The other type of songs were jazz hits but they were less popular. Both “categories” got the audience grooving in their seats at the necessary timings.

To a couple of students, “Jazz in the Living Room” was their first time ever performing on stage and in a room of close to 393 people. Sandra Azki, who sang two songs and played the percussion during the show, described that she experienced stage fright for the first time. “My legs were shaking and I felt as if my eyebrows were shaking too!”, she admitted.

As the concert came to an end, the audience were all smiling and clapping. The show ended with a standing ovation after the last track was an improvisation by the performers. “Martin is the most creative artist. He just knows what he’s doing and always comes up with beautiful shows,” said Mira Matar, one of the ushers who also watched the entire show. Some of the audience members felt that there are a few parts in the concert that could have been fixed. “I enjoyed the show but I thought that it would be more fun and bright than mostly “slow” songs,” said Theirry Richa, 28, who heard about the show via an LAU student.

Before the last song, Dr. Martin Loyato announced that he is working on a musical for his next production. He added that students can email him if they are interested in joining the upcoming major music production.

Musicians who were part of the performance:

  • Sandra Azki: Voice and Percussion - LAU student
  • Yasmeen Semman: Voice and Percussion - LAU student
  • Lynn El Jbeily: Piano and Voice - LAU student
  • Jad El-Mawla: Bass, Piano, Voice and Guitar - LAU student
  • Omar Hamadeh: Voice and Percussion - LAU student
  • Karl Bou-Rjeily: Guitar, Percussion, and Ukulele - LAU student
  • Martin Loyato: Trumpet and Flugelhorn - LAU Assistant Professor
  • and Musician Amr Selim: French Horn - Special Guest

The sound was run also by another graduate student, Mohammed Zahzah, who has been part of the last four productions and since the very first show Dr. Martin did at LAU, he wanted to learn more the technical aspect of sound. The light designer was done by LAU Professor Omar Moujaes who brought his entire class from Byblos campus, so he could teach his students how to do the lighting job.

About the author

Sharen Aoun is a 3rd year journalism student at the Lebanese American University. She is also Tony Blair’s Net Bearer in Lebanon. You can contact her on or via facebook Sharen Aoun.


This article was first published on LAU Tribune.