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Collegiate Jazz Festival to celebrate university bands

| Friday, February 22, 2019

Collegiate jazz bands from across the nation will come together this weekend to perform in a non-competitive setting for Notre Dame’s 61st-annual Collegiate Jazz Festival (CJF). The festival is the oldest and most prestigious collegiate jazz festival in the nation and will feature a panel of world-class, professional jazz musicians to judge the competitors.

This year, the festival will host bands from Roosevelt University, Drake University, Western Michigan University, University of Michigan, Columbia College and Notre Dame. Each band brings its own “individual characteristic style” to the festival, Larry Dwyer, director of jazz studies at Notre Dame, said.

“Some of the bands play more contemporary jazz, some play jazz mixed with R&B. It’s all stuff that students would love hearing even if they don’t think they know anything about jazz,” Dwyer said.

Beyond the collegiate jazz groups, Dwyer said he tried to bring in judges “who are not only world-class musicians, but who have worked with colleges before and are able to lead clinics and communicate verbally to our students.”

This year, Dwyer said he worked on trying to include judges “who specialize in Latin jazz, as well as mainstream jazz.”

The panel of judges includes Steve Turre on trombone, Ralph Moore on saxophone, Otmaro Ruiz on piano, Robert Hurst on bass and Ignacio Berroa on drums. The judges boast impressive resumes, with experience working on shows such as “The Tonight Show” and “Saturday Night Live” and with artists as acclaimed as Paul McCartney, Tito Puente and Barbara Streisand, among others, according to the festival press release.

The Judge’s Jam on Friday gives the judges an opportunity to play a set on stage after an evening of collegiate performances.

“Each year the judges bring something different to the table,” senior Patrick Falvey, marching band president and CJF committee member, said. “It’s inspiring to hear all these different experiences and perspectives on jazz music. I’ve picked up new drumming ideas and new techniques just from watching the Judge’s Jam alone.”

Dwyer echoed Falvey and added that “They just do things on their instruments that you cannot believe.”

Dwyer said “a big part” of what makes Notre Dame’s jazz festival unique is the fact that “CJF is student-run.”

“At Notre Dame, it’s really about the music and the communication between these professionals and the college students who come to play,” he said. “It’s like music in a [purer] form than some of the professional festivals. It’s music without agents and corporate sponsors and all those other tie-ins that come with professional festivals. … It’s a great combination of a little bit of adult supervision and assistance combined with a lot of student input and energy and ideas.”

This student involvement is another aspect of the festival that keeps bands and judges coming back year after year. This year marks a transitional year for CJF — in past years, the Student Union Board has taken on the weight of the planning and funding for the festival. However, the Notre Dame Band took up the planning for this year’s event.

“[Notre Dame] has a lot of band students who are very interested in jazz, so it just seemed like the logical thing to incorporate them into the operation of it,” Dwyer said.

Falvey said that both groups are “very organized,” making it a smooth planning process.

“When you put those two together, it is a very easy process to get the festival up and running,” he said.

The event gives students and the South Bend community the opportunity to learn more abut the band program at Notre Dame.

“It’s not often that you can get a free ticket to see some of the best musicians in the world,” Falvey said. “Even if you don’t know a lot about jazz music, it’s amazing music and it’s fun to listen to.”

The performances will be held Friday and Saturday at Washington Hall at 7 p.m. Tickets are selling at the door and at the LaFortune Student Center Box Office for $5 for one night and $8 for both. Tickets are free for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students.

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