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Expanded 40th Annual Jazz Festival features performances, education

Ohio State Jazz Ensemble is set to perform March 26 to close the annual Jazz Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Tamara Morris

Ryan Gosling’s character in “La La Land” isn’t the only one who cares about jazz. Ohio State’s School of Music will be presenting its 40th annual Jazz Festival this week.

This year, the event was expanded from four to five days. From Wednesday to Sunday, the School of Music will showcase jazz through performances from faculty, students and visiting professional jazz musicians. The celebration also will feature master classes and workshops for high school students taught by OSU professors.

“The 40th anniversary of this festival proves that there is a rich and storied tradition of jazz performance and education at The Ohio State University, which we are proud to carry forward for many years to come,” Collin Wood, a graduate student in musical arts, said in an email. “The festival showcases our students and faculty, and demonstrates our commitment to the advancement of jazz education at this university and in the community.”

The jazz program at OSU started in 1967 when students formed a band called Jazz Band Workshop. The band won a national competition, which allowed for a jazz program at OSU, which previously wasn’t offered for credit.

It was not until 1977 that the OSU jazz studies program created the first annual Jazz Festival in order to expose both students and the community to the world of jazz and all it has to offer through concerts and guest artists, said Shawn Wallace, director of jazz studies.

Things will come full circle for Ladd McIntosh, who was the leader of the original Jazz Band Workshop and will receive an award at the Saturday night concert for his contributions to the program.

The headliner for Saturday night is Columbus native Byron Stripling, who will be conducting the OSU Jazz Ensemble and performing as a soloist on trumpet.

The audience will also see the premiere of a piece composed by Anthony Stanco, a lecturer in jazz studies in the School of Music. The OSU Jazz Ensemble raised more than $2,700 in order to commission this piece to present for the celebration of 40 years.

“This piece presents a wide gamut of styles covering the 40 years of jazz evolution, the audience is going to love it,” said Kris Keith, director of jazz ensemble.

Throughout the five days of the festival, jazz performances will be showcased. On Wednesday night, regular Columbus Jazz Orchestra participants The Bobby Floyd Trio and Bryan Olsheski will be performing.

The Ohio Show Band will perform music a bit outside the jazz genre including gospel, folk and R&B on Thursday night.

Friday night The Ohio Jaztet will perform with guest artist Vincent Chandler on trombone. The Ohio Jaztet features Stanco on trumpet, Wallace on saxophone, and lecturers in jazz studies Kevin Turner on guitar, Andy Woodson on bass and Jim Rupp on drums.

“I was invited to play in the festival in 1996, so it is interesting to go from playing to now running the festival,” Wallace said. “I will be performing in Friday’s show. It will be very intellectually stimulating for both the audience and musicians.”

Jazz workshops will be offered Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Steinbrenner Band Center at Ohio Stadium. The former Ohio State Jazz Speciality Days have been combined into one day where participants will learn about topics including improvisation, section playing, specific techniques, and instrument maintenance.

OSU Jazz Studies has invited high school jazz bands of all levels to perform Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and receive constructive comments. Special guest Stripling will work alongside judges and give feedback to each band. Wallace said that this event in the festival has been a great recruiting vehicle for the university.

The festival will conclude Sunday with a performance from the OSU Jazz Ensemble.

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