The Innocence to take UNK stage in honor of retiring Jim Payne

Jim Payne 2 copy

KEARNEY – Popular Kearney-based cover band The Innocence will join the UNK Jazz Rock Ensemble on stage for a concert highlighting the work of longtime music professor Jim Payne.

The show, free and open to the public, is at 7:30 p.m. on April 26 at the UNK Fine Arts Building Recital Hall.

The Innocence
The Innocence includes, left to right, Spencer Hansen, Greg Sales, Dave Lerbakken and Luke Oswald. The popular Kearney-based band will join the UNK Jazz Rock Ensemble on stage for an April 26 concert in honor of longtime professor Jim Payne, who is retiring after 40 years at UNK.

Payne is retiring in May after 40 years at UNK, and the concert is his last as conductor of the Jazz Rock Ensemble.

“I have asked the incredibly talented musicians in The Innocence to perform as the rhythm section in two charts I specifically arranged for them,” Payne said. “It will be a very exciting concert.”

Payne taught all four members of The Innocence, and each are former members of the Jazz Rock Ensemble at UNK. They include: Greg Sales, guitar; Dave Lerbakken, bass; Spencer Hansen, keyboard; and Luke Oswald, drums.

The concert features big band sounds with works from the swing era to newer charts of present big bands. The performance includes jazz styled in several types of 1940s swing, ballad, Latin, rock, funk rock, fast swing, rock fusion, and New Orleans street beat, blues and contemporary jazz.

Music comes from the libraries of Dave Weckl, Les Hooper, Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass, Pat Metheny, Glenn Miller and Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.

Members of the UNK Jazz Rock Ensemble, listed by hometown, include:
Carleton — Riley Volkmer, guitar.
Fremont — Josh Howard, drums.
Grand Island — Toni Birch, bari saxophone; Patience Buck, trombone; Tori Beye, piano; Dan Carlson, alto saxophone; Logan Gregory, tenor saxophone; Andrea Hesterman, trumpet.
Kearney — Chase Christensen, trumpet; Kory Reeder, bass.
Minden — Jonathan Hunzeker, trombone; Nathan Hunzeker, trumpet; Vergil Nelson, trombone; Matthew Stubbs, trumpet.
Mitchell — Matt Powell, drums.
Ogallala — Seth Dikeman, guitar; Mark Messner, trombone.
Omaha — Haley Allen, alto saxophone; Alex Pachman, drums.
Ravenna — Mike Bohn, bass.
Wahoo — Gabe Haberman, trumpet.

Andalusia, Ill. — Anthony Garcia, alto saxophone.
Mahtomedi, Minn. — Kelly Skunes, trumpet.


Source: James Payne, 308.865.8606,
Writer: Todd Gottula, 308.865.8454,


3 thoughts on “The Innocence to take UNK stage in honor of retiring Jim Payne

  1. Congratulations Jim on 40 years of amazing jazz for everyone to enjoy. We have appreciated you and Bonnie so much during our years in Neb. Enjoy your retirement.

  2. A well-deserved and truly-earned congratulations to you, Professor. It was a pleasure to learn and perform under your tutelage. I hope that you and Bonnie enjoy every moment of this new adventure. Thanks again for the memories and the musical drive to make us our best.

    With warmest regards from all of your proud alumni,
    Brian Hartmann
    Bass trombone, 1995-2000

  3. As an obsessive Business major, I don’t know if I would have made it through college if it had not been for Music, and the Jazz Rock Ensable. I have the fondest memories of being a non-music major – Dr. Payne and the band made me feel as welcome as could be. You have been an inspiration to generations of musicians – and I have always said to people from all over the world. We have the best Jazz ‘trumpet” player right here at UNK. It has been an honor to listen to your music for most all of those 40 years.

    Ted Larsen
    Lecturer of Family Studies
    University of Nebraska, Kearney
    Bari Sax 1976-1979.

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