February 14, 2014

Festival will highlight young jazz musicians

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- No matter the weather on Feb. 22, the day will be cool at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

The annual SIU Jazz Festival for area high school and junior high school musicians will feature a full roster of performances and a guest appearance by C.E. Askew, formerly of Airmen of Note, the United States Air Force jazz ensemble. 

The festival highlight also includes a performance by the university’s New Arts Jazztet at noon at Shryock Auditorium.  A concert featuring the SIU Studio Jazz Orchestra with Askew and Richard Kelley, director of jazz studies in the university’s School of Music, is at 6:30 p.m., also in Shryock Auditorium. 

Both performances are free and open to the public. 

Askew is now a member of the jazz faculty at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.  A 25-year Air Force veteran, Askew joined Airmen of Note in 1983 as a drummer and was the band’s leader during his last six years with the group. 

The festival combines friendly musical competition with education. Approximately 200 students compete against each other in a full day’s worth of ensemble performances. The students also have the opportunity to hear professional musicians perform, work closely with School of Music faculty, and even participate in a master class with Askew. 

“One of the reasons we do this is to support the regional middle school and high school music programs,” Kelley said.  “More than anything, we want to raise the level of ability and knowledge as it pertains to jazz.  The competitive element adds something extra.  Music is a performance-based industry -- we don’t want to hide the fact that competition is part of being a musician.” 

The festival is also to “highlight the importance of jazz music,” Kelley said. 

 “Jazz is a truly American art form, and it is one of the last creative outlets remaining in our school systems,” he said. 

Student performances begin at 9 a.m. in Altgeld Hall and proceed nearly on the half hour throughout the day. There is a break for master classes and the New Arts Jazztet performance.  The last student ensemble performance will begin at 5:35 p.m. 

Participating band and jazz ensembles from Illinois and Missouri include students from Marion Junior High School, Northwest High School in Chicago, O’Fallon Township High School, Rickover Naval Academy in Chicago, Sesser-Valier Junior/Senior High School, Cape Central Junior High, Cape Central High School, De Soto High School, Dexter Middle School, Dexter High School, and Kelly High School.