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MU Jazz Fest to feature Airmen of Note

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Airmen of Note, considered the premier jazz ensemble of the U.S. Air Force, will headline the 44th annual Marshall University Jazz Festival, which begins Jan. 31 and continues through Feb. 2. Performances will take place at 7 p.m. each evening in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the university's Huntington campus.

"The Jazz Festival is one of the many programs put forth by the College of Fine Arts, funded in part by the president's office of Marshall University and the Marshall University Foundation," Sean Parsons, assistant professor of music in jazz studies at Marshall, said in a release. "By bringing performers to campus as part of this festival, it is one way to share music and art with the university and community."

Admission to the concerts will be free; however, tickets are required and can be picked up the nights of the performances at the Joan C. Edwards box office.

The festival begins Thursday evening with a performance by this year's high school honor ensemble, The Patriot, from Parkersburg South High School, under the direction of Eric Staats. Afterward there will be a performance by Marshall University student combos.

The Marshall University Alumni Big Band will perform Friday night, followed by Marshall University 12.0 and guest artists. Parsons said the alumni band is an ensemble that spans four decades, made up of many musicians who studied jazz at Marshall. The ensemble is led by alumnus and Marshall adjunct professor Jeff Wolfe.

"The groups will be top notch, including our own 12.0 Jazz Ensemble and top jazz combo, Project Postbop," said Martin Saunders, associate professor of music in trumpet and jazz studies at Marshall and director of the 12.0 Jazz Ensemble. "The 12.0 performs every year as part of the jazz festival and has performed with several notable, highly regarded guest artists."

Saturday is the closing night, with a performance by the Thundering Herd All-Star Band and the featured guests, Airmen of Note. The band is a group of select high school musicians who come together in a jazz ensemble, working over the period of a few days to perform a concert, Parsons said. This year features students from six high schools and will be led by Steve Roberts, director of jazz at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"Audience members who attend on Saturday night will hear one of the premier jazz ensembles on the planet, the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note," Saunders said in the release. "I'm excited to hear the Airmen of Note since I used to be part of the Air Force Bands program and the pianist is a good friend from that previous experience."

According to their website, the Airmen of Note was created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Maj. Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps dance band.

Throughout the day prior to the evening concerts the festival will feature 11 junior high and high school ensembles from around the region. They will perform at Joan C. Edwards and are adjudicated and given a workshop by guest clinicians.

The festival is in memory of trombonist Jim Groscup, a Marshall alumnus and active member of the musical community.

Questions about the festival may be directed to Parsons at 304-696-6459 by phone or parsons@marshall.edu by e-mail.