Jazz to fill historic Lovett Auditorium

Lidia Vazquez/The News

Jazz concert festivities will be in full swing this weekend as the Murray State Jazz Festival hosts its sixth annual concert at 7:30 tonight in Lovett Auditorium.

The festival includes performances from seven middle schools and five high schools throughout the region, the KMEA All-First District Jazz Band, the Murray State “Blue” Jazz Combo, Murray State Jazz Band, Murray State Jazz Orchestra and a guest performance by the Jamey Aebersold Quartet.

The Murray State Jazz Festival began in the early 1970s; however, due to lack of funding, the program was cut short.

In 2007, Todd Hill, assistant professor of music, and his colleagues revamped the program as a jazz education opportunity for students throughout the surrounding regions. Hill is the coordinator for the program and director of jazz ensembles at Murray State.

“It was more to get interest in jazz in regional schools and that has paid off,” Hill said. “Several of our regional schools now offer jazz within their curriculum and we now have an all-district jazz band formed from students in those schools.”

Hill said the festival has been such a success in recruitment that nearly 60 percent of jazz students at Murray State took part in this program during their middle and/or high school years.

Courtney Harrison, junior from Cadiz, Ky., is the lead alto saxophone for the Murray State Jazz Orchestra.

She said she has participated in the event for six semesters as a college student and performed with the Trigg County High School jazz band before that.

“Our high school jazz band always participated in the clinics, sectionals and concert during the festival,” she said.

Harrison said this participation left a lasting impression on her as a student, leading her to choose Murray State and continuing her jazz education.

“It definitely influenced me because I had already established a relationship and was excited about the program,” she said.

As a part of the Murray State Jazz Orchestra, Harrison has been given the opportunity to work directly with her high school alma mater during the sectional practices offered at the festival.

In addition to the clinics held by Murray State jazz ensembles, world-renowned saxophonist, Jamey Aebersold, also is instructing clinics.

Aebersold served as a clinician for the attending groups during the Jazz Festival’s early years and has done so regularly since. Aebersold is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators, a group host to honorees such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Now, several years later, he and his quartet are still helping educate the public and entertain attendees at the festival.

The quartet is composed of famous regional jazz superstars, including Aebersold on alto saxophone, Luke Gillespie on piano, Tyrone Wheeler on bass and Jonathan Higgins on drums.

These artists are not only performers, but also teachers sharing their passions with students in the Murray area.

The clinics and concerts held this weekend are free to the public. For more information on the Jazz Festival, contact Hill at toddehill@hotmail.com.