NORTH NEWTON, – There’s a new hand waving the baton for the Bethel College Jazz Ensemble II.

That hand belongs to Bethel graduate and Jazz Ensemble I alumnus Joel Boettger.

Boettger grew up in Hesston and is a 2009 graduate of Hesston High School.

Boettger wasn’t expecting to end up back at Bethel after completing his master’s degree in jazz at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

“I certainly did not think that this was going to happen to me when I left to go to Rochester for graduate school,” Boettger says. Nevertheless, he couldn’t be more excited with how things turned out.

“It is really nice to be here,” he says, “and it is nice to start my [teaching] career as part of this community that is really supportive.”

Boettger made his Bethel jazz directing debut at Fall Festival earlier this school year.

The performance went well despite the inclement weather on Saturday that forced a move to Memorial Hall.

While he wasn’t pleased with Mother Nature’s performance, the opposite is true for Jazz II.

“It was really good. I am really proud of them. They are continuing to work hard, and it is only going to get better.”

See Boettger and Bethel Jazz II next in action at the annual Christmas Gala Jazz concert, this year on Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

Jazz II will play “a really nice arrangement of ‘We Three Kings’ that is in the style of Count Basie, so that will be fun,” Boettger says.

“We’re going to play [the ballad] ‘Embraceable You,’ which features the saxophone section and different sections of the ensemble,” along with two pieces from the Fall Festival set list.

Jazz Ensemble I is also on the program for Christmas Gala Jazz, playing arrangements that Boettger calls “difficult music that sounds really awesome,” including Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite for jazz ensemble.

Jim Pisano, Bethel director of jazz studies, leads Bethel Jazz I.

The Dec. 8 program is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support jazz study and performance at Bethel College.

As always, Gala Jazz will be a mix of standard charts and holiday classics.

Jazz II’s program for Gala Jazz will include “Bye Bye Blackbird” by Dixon and Henderson, arranged by Kris Berg; “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson, arranged by Paul Jennings; “I Can’t Get Started” by Gershwin and Duke, arranged by Mark Taylor; “Embraceable You” by George and Ira Gershwin, arranged by Roy Phillippe; and “We Three Kings,” arranged by Mark Taylor.

Jazz II personnel are: saxophones, Autumn Strecker, Goessel, Jacob Callison, Wichita, Jacob Anderson, Newton, and Jesus Martinez, Newton; trumpets, Isaac Dunn, Chloe LaCombe, Abilene, Adrian Rogers and Samantha Buffalo; trombones, Seth Larson, Wichita, Ben Abel, Paoli, and Brad Shores; bass, Jon Graber; and percussion, Shawn Bontrager, North Newton, and Bruce Rosario, Pollocksville, North Carolina.

Jazz I personnel are: saxophones, Neil Smucker, North Newton, Zane Richter, McPherson, Matt Lind, Newton, Caleb Abbott, Wichita, and Ben Wiens, Goessel; trumpets, Evan Koch, North Newton, Connor Born, North Newton, Alec Loganbill, Hesston, Becky Home, and Gabe Johnson, Abilene; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Adam Kroeker, Augusta, and Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, with Nathan Kroeker, Augusta, on bass trombone; piano, Matt Lind and Ian Gingrich-Gaylord; bass, Eli Brockway, McPherson; guitar, Jayce Yoder, Topeka; and percussion, Chuck Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, and Micah Miller Wyse, Hesston.