Editor’s Note: Nikki Patrick was off on Wednesday. Today’s Patrick’s People was written by Andrew Nash.
Bob Kehle, Pittsburg State Department of Music faculty, gets a little excited when he talks about the annual Jazz Festival.
“It’s always there, it’s always on my mind,” Kehle said. “As soon as it’s over, I’m already thinking about what are we going to do next year, how do we work it in, who do we have visit. It starts very early.”
The 39th Annual version of the Jazz Festival may not have as many schools as in past years, but will have at least one big band — The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.
The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band was formed in 1998 to continue the Gillespie legacy after he passed away in 1993.
“Their baritone saxophone player, he was the winner of the Jazz Times’ Critics Poll for best baritone sax player,” Kehle said. “That’s the type of caliber of these guys. Four of the [Dizzy Gillespie band] were here last year with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, including him. Obviously, they enjoyed their time here, which is neat.”
The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are required for the performance, which will also include the Pittsburg State Jazz Ensemble I. Tickets are $15 for adults on the main floor and $10 for PSU faculty and staff and those 65 and older or 17 and under. Full-time PSU students are admitted free.
Kehle said that it will be a true honor for his students to play as the opening act for the jazz all-stars.
“The evening concert is by far the highlight. It’s fun for our students to get out in front of a crowd, and have the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band waiting beside the stage listening to them play. It’s kind of like giving a presentation for Steve Jobs. There’s a lot of hang time, and they usually get time to eat with the band, and collaborate with famous jazz musicians,” Kehle said.
The Jazz Festival was started in 1974 by Rusty Jones, who is now the Music Department’s chairman. It has always been a lot more than a single performance.
Students from 57 schools, including junior high schools, high schools, and one community college, will make their way to Pittsburg on Friday for the festival, from as near as Pittsburg and as far as Tulsa, Kansas City and Springfield, Mo.
There will be four sites playing jazz “pretty much all day,” scattered across McCray Hall and Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
“They’ll play for the judges, who will adjudicate and give them a rating. They don’t pick a winner. A lot of directors like that, judging the students on a standard, not necessarily if they’re the best band that day. It’s much more educational,” Kehle said.
Page 2 of 2 - The judges come from Texas State University, the University of Michigan, Edison College of Florida and Hope College, as well as others. Further, the judges will give feedback, not only with taped comments, but also with direct coaching. The bands will also go home with a tape of their performance.
“First, we hope they take back things to work on and improve their playing, that’s part of it,” Kehle said. “Second, we hope they go back excited about music playing in general and about jazz. The evening concert, we want them to say, ‘That’s something. Could I do something like that?’”
Kehle said the event is important for other reasons, like the economic impact of bringing students from nearly 60 schools for at least one meal and the judges and a band to the area for a day or two, and also the recruiting impact.
He said that students may not come to PSU for music, but he has students in other departments come up to him from other departments that tell him their first exposure to the university was through the Jazz Festival.
“I think it’ll go until PSU doesn’t exist anymore,” Kehle said. “It’s one of the older jazz festivals in the country. Some say it may be the biggest one-day jazz event in the Midwest. The others are all multiple-day events.”
The daytime performances run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are free and open to the public at the Sharon K. Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall, the Overman Student Center, and in both the upper and lower levels of the Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
For ticket information to the evening performance, call 235-4796 or visit www.pittstate.edu/tickets.