The 59th Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival
Mike Donovan | Thursday, February 23, 2017
If you’re looking to get your cultural fix Thursday, head over to the LaFortune ballroom where, starting at 7 p.m., you can see Notre Dame’s New Orleans Brass Band and Jazz Band 2 perform in the Collegiate Jazz Festival preview. Tonight’s show will be the first of many opportunities to experience the excitement of live jazz music over the next few days. According to student organizer Joseph Ghirardo, the preview night will be Mardi Gras themed, and the Student Union Board will provide free beignets and drinks for all attendees.
The Festival, now in its 59th year, takes place in Washington Hall on Friday and Saturday nights. The event showcases the work of both elite collegiate jazz bands and acclaimed professional musicians.
The attending collegiate ensembles — University of Alabama Jazz Ensemble, Roosevelt University Big Band, Western Michigan University Big Band, Alma College Percussion Ensemble, University of Illinois Latin Jazz Ensemble, University of Illinois Jazz Combo, Notre Dame Jazz Band 1 and The Notre Dame New Orleans Brass Band — will each play 30-minute sets. Four of the bands play Friday evening, and the rest take the stage Saturday. As music professor and assistant director of bands Larry Dwyer points out, the collegiate performances are a great way to experience the diversity of jazz music firsthand.
“Every one of these groups has its own personality,” Dwyer said. “On a given night, you’re going to hear five different performances, and every one will be radically different from the other one.”
After each performance, a panel of judges will critique the bands in the spirit of what Dwyer calls “friendly competition.” The judicial panel will be comprised of five professional musicians.
This year’s judges are all relatively young, virtuosic instrumentalists at the top of their respective disciplines.
Trumpeter Darren Barrett teaches at Berklee College of Music and champions a jazz/reggae fusion style.
Saxophonist Jimmy Greene teaches at Western Connecticut State and boasts recording credits with Harry Connick Jr. and Horace Silver.
Pianist Aaron Goldberg leads an acclaimed jazz trio and recently released an album titled “The Now.”
Bassist Yasushi Nakamura has played storied venues like The Blue Note and Carnegie Hall as well as international festivals in Tokyo and Ravinia, Illinois.
Drummer Obed Calvaire served as a Collegiate Festival of Jazz judge in 2006 and has performing credits with The Clayton Brothers quintet, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman and Mary J. Blige.
Students have a chance to hear the judges perform in the Judges’ Jam at 10 p.m. Friday. During the hour-long set, the judges will play as a single unit, fusing their distinctive musical personalities to produce a completely unique piece of improvised music.
Students are highly encouraged to take advantage of the professional performance.
“They’re just on a totally different level than the best of college game,” Dwyer said. “You will hear them do things and just say, ‘Oh my God, how did they do that?’”
The judges are also offering a free jazz clinic for the public at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The clinic will take place in the Ricci Band Rehearsal Hall.
If you’re a longtime fan of America’s original art form or a genre newcomer, the Collegiate Jazz Festival is a great place to start.
Student admission is free for all events. Public tickets cost $5 per night or $8 for both nights.
The schedule of performances at Collegiate Jazz Festival is as follows:
7 p.m. – Notre Dame New Orleans Brass Band and Jazz Band 2
7 p.m. – Notre Dame Jazz Band 1
7:45 p.m. – University of Alabama Jazz Ensemble
8:30 p.m. – Roosevelt University Big Band
9:15 p.m. – Western Michigan University Big Band
10 p.m. – Judges’ Jam
Ricci Band Rehearsal Hall
2 p.m. – Judges’ Clinic (free and open to the public)
7 p.m. – Alma College Percussion Ensemble
7:45 p.m. – University of Illinois Latin Jazz Ensemble
8:30 p.m. – Columbia College Fusion Ensemble
9:15 p.m. – University of Illinois Jazz Combo
10 p.m. – Notre Dame New Orleans Brass Band