The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Students, professionals perform at Eau Claire’s Jazz Festival

John Koenig

Hundreds of people continued filing into Memorial High School auditorium Saturday night as the house lights began to dim and members of UW-Eau Claire’s Jazz Ensemble I took the stage for its final concert of Eau Claire’s 39th annual Jazz Festival.

Seventy-four different bands from four states participated in the two-day event, which included competitions, clinics and other activities, making it the largest jazz festival in the Midwest, said senior Jessica Moebius, assistant coordinator for the event.

“It’s run the smoothest that it has in a long time,” she said. “From what I heard, the judges had a hard time picking (winners). The bands played at a very high level this year.”

Friday was college day on which seven colleges or universities competed for the top spots in the big band and combo categories with honors going to Drake University (Iowa) for both categories.

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Middle- and high-school students also competed in the Jazz Festival.

Students in Eau Claire’s music and theater department begin planning and organizing the event in September, Moebius said, a process that includes sending out letters and brochures to potential participants and finding guest artists.

In mid-December, a 16-member committee is selected to help facilitate the preparations, she said. At least 50 other music students also typically volunteer for the event.

Sophomore John Raymond is a member of Jazz I and has participated in the event for two years. He said getting the chance to play with the ensemble, which performs with the two guest artists, has been a dream come true.

“From a musician’s standpoint . it’s one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Raymond said. “We are so blessed to have this opportunity to work with these amazing musicians.”

This year, Raymond got the chance to perform at one of two pre-concerts, featuring senior Tom Krochock’s group TKQ as well as Raymond’s own, The John Raymond Project on Saturday.

“It was a great opportunity for my group,” he said. “It was great because the gigs we get to play are usually in front of a smaller audience.”

Proceeds from registration and concert ticket sales go to the jazz studies department, Moebius said, to support the purchase of music, concerts and tours, as well as funding next year’s festival.

“We try to put it together so they can hear some phenomenal players and hear some of the top jazz bands in the area.”

This year’s featured guest artists were percussionist Lewis Nash and clarinet and saxophone player Brian Grivna, who performed with Jazz I. Other guest artists included pianist Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera and trombonist Michael Nelson.

Raymond also gave a clinic both days entitled “From first rehearsal to CD: making dreams become a reality,” a presentation that exposed students to the process of starting a new band.

“This campus doesn’t even know to the smallest extent (its) music program; (it) really, really trains people to become musicians – not just players who go out there to play gigs,” he said.

“Jazz Fest epitomizes this. It brings the university into the spotlight. The entire week is an incredible experience, even for someone who is not even in music.”

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Students, professionals perform at Eau Claire’s Jazz Festival