The annual Carolina Jazz Festival will be held online from Thursday, Feb. 18 to Saturday, Feb. 20, kicking off with livestream concerts by University faculty and students. For high school students, there will be open clinics, coaching sessions and a competition with cash prizes.
Juan Álamo, professor of percussion and jazz studies, has performed in the Carolina Jazz Festival every year since his 2012 arrival at the University.
“The ultimate goal is just to share the music, to help each other learn from each other and to sort of continue the legacy that was left to us by the great jazz masters,” Álamo said.
Despite the challenges of performing and teaching virtually, Álamo said he and others in the jazz studies department feel the festival’s mission is more important than ever. In the spirit of accessibility, registration is free for all events.
“We could have easily canceled the festival, but we felt like doing so would have been giving in to the fact that things are difficult now,” Álamo said.
UNC Jazz Band Director Rahsaan Barber agreed, praising the leadership of the program director, Stephen Anderson.
“I think it says a lot about Dr. Anderson's dedication and thoughts about serving the student communities that he has stuck it through,” Barber said. “And I think we've actually created something that is going to be uniquely positive.”
Álamo and Barber will both perform in Thursday evening’s faculty concert without ever being in the same room. Álamo, a percussionist, will share a space with other musicians who can wear a mask without interfering with their playing. Meanwhile, Barber will play his saxophone in a separate room.
“It's actually a really cool setup that allows us all to use video conferencing software with virtually no delay so that we can improvise in the moment,” Barber said.
First-year Daniel Asanov said students in the jazz combos are taking similar precautions for their Friday night concert.
“We only have one or two in-person rehearsals scheduled beforehand,” Asanov said.
On Saturday, high school students can get instruction and feedback over Zoom from University faculty, as well as this year’s guest artists: trumpeter Nathan Warner and Rahsaan Barber’s twin, trombonist Roland Barber.
“I see this as a rare opportunity to give the students an experience that they desperately need given that we’re in a pandemic,” Barber said.
Barber relates to young musicians striving to hone their craft without mentorship or feedback.
“I actually didn't get regular, weekly saxophone lessons until I got to college,” Barber said.
Barber hopes the Carolina Jazz Festival will reach more students this year without the roadblocks of cost or travel.
“Many of them, were it not for experiences like this, may never actually awaken that passion for music and choose to go into it.” Barber said.
Students can also submit recordings of themselves performing to compete for a $150 prize. Submission links and a full schedule of events can be found at the Jazz Fest's website.
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