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ND Collegiate Jazz Festival Kicks Off

SARA FELSENSTEIN | Friday, February 26, 2010

The 52nd annual University Collegiate Jazz Festival (CJF), the longest-running college jazz event in the nation, will be held at 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday at Washington Hall.
Nine bands in total will participate in CJF, including Notre Dame’s own Jazz Band 1 and the Notre Dame New Orleans Brass Band.

Other jazz groups represented at the Festival will come from Tennessee State University, Western Michigan University, Capital (Ohio) University, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, Alma (Michigan) College, Indiana University at South Bend and the Reunion Jazz Orchestra of Chicago.  

“I’m excited to see the outstanding collegiate jazz musicians at their best,” said student coordinator Mike Rodio, a sophomore.  “We’re especially happy to welcome the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians this year. Tennessee State has always boasted an extraordinary jazz program, and they will bring some incredible talent to the Festival on Saturday night.”

Five highly acclaimed jazz artists will judge the performances. The judging panel is led by saxophonist Jeff Clayton, who has played and recorded with artists like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rodgers, Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Madonna and Earth, Wind & Fire. Other judges include renowned musicians Ira Nepus (trombone), Llew Matthews (piano), Marion Hayden (bass) and Willie Jones III (drums).

At the end of Friday night’s program, the five judges will play a jam session together.
The CJF is distinctive because it focuses on learning, not rankings. The judges will select outstanding musicians from each performing group, and provide a feedback session for each group immediately after it performs.

The five judges will also present a clinic Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Ricci Band Rehearsal Hall on the east side of campus. The clinic is free and open to the public. The judges will discuss and demonstrate performance methods, and answer questions about instrumental techniques and different jazz styles.

Rodio and fellow sophomore student coordinator Bert Hootsmans have been working on the Festival since the beginning of the year. Amy Geist of the Student Union Board and Larry Dwyer, Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Director of Bands, also helped to coordinate the Festival.  

“We started with the basics, sending information about the Festival to jazz groups throughout the nation,” Rodio said. “Some of the bands this year are perennial favorites, and others are new this year, like Tennessee State.  We gradually put things together, from the advertising to the merchandising to encouraging volunteers to participate.”

Rodio said he believes jazz is still very popular among the young people of college campuses, and that even if students don’t regularly listen to jazz, they should still come out and see the show.  

“Jazz is very much alive on college campuses, and we’re proud of Notre Dame’s tradition of showcasing collegiate jazz talent from across the nation,” Rodio said.  

All CJF events are free but ticketed for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students. Tickets are available at the LaFortune Box Office.