Alumni Profiles is an ongoing series highlighting successful graduates who, with a SUNY education, achieved interesting and influential careers.
This week’s alumni profiles takes a look at a pair of alumni who are bandmates playing abroad this month. The Arch Stanton Quartet, a quartet including Christopher Macchia (SUNY New Paltz ’00) and Roger Noyes (University at Albany ’03), is currently touring Egypt in conjunction with AMIDEAST, an organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.
While overseas, the Arch Stanton Quartet will perform at the Fifth Cairo International Jazz Festival, the American University in Cairo (AUC), and in Alexandria as part of a jazz diplomacy program. In addition to AMIDEAST, the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research at AUC are promoting the Arch Stanton Quartet in its jazz diplomacy.
1. What’s the history of your band? What are your roles, and who are the other members?
Our original drummer of about four years ago, Jim Ketterer, brought us together. We gelled quickly and started to gig in Saratoga, the Albany area, and the Hudson Valley. We’ve been playing around upstate New York and, now, Egypt for about 4 or 5 years. The band is a four-piece jazz combo that plays in the club-jazz tradition of bop and post-bop, with some modern twists and turns. Roger plays guitar and Chris plays bass. We also have a trumpet player, Terry Gordon, and a drummer, Steven Partyka.
2. How did you get connected with AMIDEAST, the American non-profit organization that is sponsoring your trip?
Jim Ketterer, the country director of AMIDEAST, was previously the drummer in our band. In fact, he was the real impetus for the band to come together in the first place, and now he is the main impetus for us coming to Egypt, with some vital support from AMIDEAST, the American University in Cairo, and the U.S. Embassy, which have all seen the merits of this diplomatic cultural mission.
3. What do you hope to accomplish while in Egypt?
We hope to expose Egyptians to music from the U.S. that they may not be familiar with. Also, we want to meet and get to know the Egyptian people better to further the mutual understanding of the American and Egyptian cultures.
[We want to accomplish] many things. For one, we’re bringing American jazz to an international festival, and that means it is really important for us to represent the American tradition of jazz as we see it. At the same time, and just as importantly, we are also learning about the many amazing ways that bands from the dozen other countries at this year’s jazz festival have changed jazz by incorporating elements of their cultures into the music. It’s quite an amazing thing to see. In fact, some of the more traditional elements of our band’s sound may, ironically, make us seem a bit more unique. We feel we fulfill an important niche in the jazz festival, just as all the other performers do. This festival is really important on a cultural level for the people of Egypt and, hopefully, it is one of many steps needed to help bring about a trend toward restoring tourism, the economy, and cultural life in post-Revolution Egypt.
Aside from the festival, we have been working with Egyptian music students and performing for Egyptian high school students to teach them about jazz. This has probably been the most moving experience of our trip because many of the students are truly hearing this music for the first time and they have been so enthusiastic.
Lastly, it is important for us to see firsthand the way of life in Egypt and make sure our friends back home in the U.S. see the cultural and political conditions of Egypt from the eyes of the people we meet and talk to. There are so many levels of important cross-cultural exchange that we hope to achieve here and this is a shared goal of AMIDEAST, the U.S. Embassy and the American University. We are proud to be a part of it.
4. Do you have any extracurricular plans while overseas?
We were able to see the pyramids, but our schedule is so tight we cannot spend too much time being tourists. Luckily, there is so much culture in the city that everywhere you look there is something to see.
We’re going to be very busy making music and talking to people about music. We’ve toured the pyramids and seen many other sights, including Tahrir Square, but it is really exciting to visit a country not as a tourist per se, but as a kind of cultural tourist. This sort of cultural programming is an inherently social process. Musicians, in particular, can be some of the best people to talk to and to get to know, so we’ve been meeting many wonderful, inspirational people.
5. Roger, why UAlbany? What did you take out of UAlbany that you value the most now?
I got my Master’s Degree in English, and one of the great things about the UAlbany English program was the focus on critical thought and exchange—something that is of value in all of the work I do, including here in Egypt. In my day job, I am a communications director in the medical field and have done some adjunct teaching and other related work in my career, so I have really put my education to use in an important way.
6. Chris, what drew you to New Paltz? How did your New Paltz education help you grow?
I’m not sure what drew me to New Paltz, but I loved it right away. In fact, I still live in the village. I was a music student in college and I play professionally.
7. Overall, how did SUNY help you in your careers?
Chris: “The amazing faculty in the music department at New Paltz taught me well. I draw on their lessons at every gig.”
Roger: “The SUNY graduate school experience set me on the path to where I am now in my career as a writing professional and I value this education every day.”
8. What advice do you have to share with SUNY students, especially those who are looking to pursue music?
It is a very difficult career, but we can’t imagine not doing it. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice but if you are willing to put the time in then go for it and have fun!
BONUS: Roger, where were you on Friday and Sunday while the Danes capitalized on their bids in the NCAA Tournament?
On Friday morning we were touring around the pyramids and then playing our first of two sets at the Cairo Jazz Festival. We packed a lot into this trip! It seems like every day has been filled with a lifetime of experiences.