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CUAB and WXYC radio work together to bring jazz to campus


Jazz artist Matthew Shipp, center, performs on March 29 in the Hill Hall auditorium.

Photo courtesy of Karina Soni.

The impetus for the first collaboration between CUAB and WXYC came from a famous jazz musician.

While Googling himself, jazz pianist Matthew Shipp discovered that UNC radio station WXYC frequently plays his music. He asked the station to help him find a venue to perform in the area.

“We were so pleased that he contacted us,” said Karina Soni, outreach coordinator for WXYC.

“We were flattered, because it’s an artist we really appreciate, and he saw that and wants to perform.”

Soni said the station jumped at the chance to bring Shipp and his current bandmates to the Chapel Hill area — but they didn’t have the funding to do it themselves.

So Soni asked Evan Allan, music chairman for the Carolina Union Activities Board, if the organization would collaborate with WXYC for the first time.

Allan said he was happy to help.

“That type of jazz isn’t represented on campus at a lot,” he said.

Ultimately, CUAB secured the funding — about $5,000 — and WXYC publicized the event.

Shipp is known for his artistry in “free jazz,” which is more improvised than mainstream bebop or modal jazz.

He has released 20 albums in the past 10 years, either as part of a group or as a solo artist.

Many of Shipp’s albums are in rotation at WXYC, meaning they get regular play, said Will Vizuete, an environmental science professor and disc jockey at the station.

“They’re very good at promoting events,” Allan said, citing the number of local radio stations they contacted and their advertisements around campus.

But Soni said publicizing for an act that few outside of the WXYC community are familiar with has been a challenge.

“It’s hard to turn people onto jazz,” she said. “They’re all like, ‘I love the top 40!’”

Soni said she’s excited to help expand Shipp’s fan base, though.

“It’s a really good way to integrate students and give them an idea of what we do and how we want to expand music that we really like to the campus community,” she said.

Vizuete said he believes students who aren’t familiar with Shipp’s music will enjoy the performance.

He first saw Shipp perform live about 14 years ago as part of the David S. Ware quartet, and he said he still remembers it vividly.

“They were an atomic bomb of a quartet,” he said. “It was something very new and powerful, and I’ve been a fan ever since.”

Soni said she hopes WXYC and CUAB collaborate on more events in the future.

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“We want to keep doing things like this,” she said.

“We want to be able to bring artists that don’t get as much exposure with the help of CUAB.”

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