The UNC Department of Music will kick off its 41st annual Carolina Jazz Festival on Feb. 15. Festival director Jim Ketch and his students have been putting in work behind the scenes to make sure the festival plays out smoothly.
The festival involves a high school competition and performance, professional performances by special guests, and collegiate performances by the UNC Jazz Band and UNC Jazz Combos.
“This year the spots in the festival (for high schoolers) ran out really quickly,” sophomore Ben Thyer said. “It’s really gaining in popularity and it’s showing more, and we’re getting the word out about the UNC music department to more and more high schools.”
Some students, like senior Felix Allen, remember participating in the event as high schoolers and hope to pass on the same amazing experience.
“I definitely remember being inspired, not only by professors ... as well as the guest artists, but also the college students,” Allen said. “Getting to see them perform in the big band was a really cool thing.”
While working to make the high school performance run smoothly, the collegiate musicians have also been working to make their own performances successful.
“The big band is playing a challenging piece. The piece is called 'Recorda Me,' but the arrangement is what’s challenging,” Thyer said. "‘Recorda Me’ is a kind of classic, simple song — almost cheesy — but the arrangement is really innovative, and it’s by Joe Henderson himself.”
Thyer said when Ketch first presented the piece he knew it would be a challenge, but the band has been practicing hard to master the tune.
“I’ve been doing a lot of practicing on my own, and as the section leader for the saxophone section, I’ve been making sure we’re getting together and making sure we sound good not only individually, but as a whole,” sophomore Anne Bennett said.
The team behind the festival has arranged a number of professional performances in addition to the high school and college level performances. The first professional performance will be on Feb. 15.
“There are some really great young musicians coming,” Ketch said. “Our headliner is actually coming this week. His name is Ambrose Akinmusire. He is the guest artist from Carolina Performing Arts.”
There will be two additional professional performances on Feb. 23.
“We have a trumpeter named Alphonso Horne, and a saxophonist named Patrick Brantley,” Thyer said. “It’s neat to be able to have these guest artists because people who are coming to see the concert can not only see their own college band, but they’re also seeing professionals.”
Although the event is all about jazz, the team behind the Carolina Jazz Festival said it is not just for musicians or jazz connoisseurs. They said anyone who enjoys creativity and music, or is just looking for a different weekend activity, is encouraged to come out.
“Usually if they get in the room they’ll feel the power," Ketch said. "They’ll feel the authority, they’ll certainly respond to it rhythmically and I think the sound is very powerful."
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