SUB hosts 58th annual collegiate jazz festival
Courtney Becker | Monday, February 29, 2016
The 58th annual Collegiate Jazz Festival (CJF), which celebrated women in jazz this year, was held Friday and Saturday in Washington Hall.
This year, the panel of judges was made up of five female jazz musicians, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, alto and soprano saxophonist Christine Jensen, pianist Helen Sung, string bassist Marion Hayden and drummer Allison Miller. This lineup is a change from years past, sophomore Karen Chen, this year’s Student Union Board (SUB), programmer for the event, said.
“In the past, there have been 171 male judges but only nine female judges,” she said. “So we wanted, with the female empowerment movement going on in society, to acknowledge that there are so many other talented female musicians in the jazz field, too.”
While the festival featured performances from the Notre Dame Jazz Band 1 and the Notre Dame New Orleans Brass Band, as well as groups from Lee University, Roosevelt University, Western Michigan University, Alma College, Columbia College and University of Mississippi, the highlight of the festival was the Judges’ Jam on Saturday afternoon, Chen said.
“The judges were all so amazing, and it was great watching the way they kind of all interacted onstage, and they’d like turn to each other and smile,” she said. “I had a lot of fun watching them because you could tell they were having a lot of fun, too.”
Senior Maddie McHugh, an alto saxophonist in the New Orleans Brass Band, said the Judges’ Jam surpassed her expectations as a first-year member of the New Orleans Brass Band.
“They were absolutely incredible musicians,” McHugh said. “I kept watching the drummer [Allison Miller]. She just looked like she was having so much fun while she was playing that I wanted to pick up a pair of sticks and try a drum set for the first time.”
Senior Adam Henderson, a trumpet player in the Jazz Band 1 and the New Orleans Brass Band, said inviting a new group of judges each year creates some variation in the judges’ performance.
“The Judges’ Jam was different, and it was good in a very different way than last year’s was, just because they played a different type of jazz than last year’s did,” he said. “It [was] not confined to the traditional type of jazz that you usually think of, and so it [was] very fun and interesting to listen to, whereas the type of jazz that they played last year was a little bit more standard and what you would think of when you would think of jazz.”
Henderson said another difference between this year’s and last year’s festival was attendance, particularly at the event’s preview Thursday night in the LaFortune Ballroom.
“SUB did a great job of promoting the event this year,” he said. “People were really buzzing about it and preview night this year … they had a chocolate fountain and everything, so this year in comparison to past years has been awesome. … We had a lot of people at preview night on Thursday, where last year it was dead, there was no one there.”
Chen said attendance was high enough to cause a program shortage, a phenomenon unheard of before this year.
“We’ve printed the same amount of programs every single year for the past couple years [and] we ran out of programs within the first half of the first night,” she said. “I believe the final count for audience members, not including the bands that were watching, was somewhere around 260 on the first night.”
McHugh said the CJF served as an opportunity to explore a different side of her instrument and music.
“I feel like jazz is so much more personal than anything else,” she said. “[In] marching band, concert band, you sort of play what’s on the page … Jazz is just everyone putting their personality through their instrument and sort of communicating with each other.”
Henderson said the New Orleans Brass Band chose to play without sheet music onstage to allow even more flexibility.
“For our performance, the trumpets, we [did] not have a folder in front of us because we like to be able to just listen to everyone else and play what the spirit moves you,” he said. “Being able to get up there in front of a packed house, in front of people and just have fun, sing, dance around, move, interact with each other, that’s what makes it fun.”