2015 Athens Jazz Festival poster

Athens Jazz Festival to Spotlight OU Students, Faculty

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Festival season is well underway in Athens County, with big bashes and street soirees taking place every weekend.

But of all of the famous (and infamous) fests in our neck of the woods, there’s only one that swings: The Athens Jazz Festival.

The annual music fest returns this Friday through Sunday, kicking off at ARTS/West with the Big League Big Band–a group comprised of music educators from Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

The one-night-only ensemble will perform a variety of big band standards from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Stan Kenton and others. It’s a must-see event, according to festival organizer Sean Parsons, assistant professor of Music Theory and Jazz at the Ohio University School of Music.

“Friday night’s concert at ARTS/West will feature some of the finest musicians in jazz, and some of the finest educators in jazz as well,” he said. “It’s often said that ‘those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’ That saying doesn’t apply in this case.”

The festival continues on Saturday at 12 p.m. with performances by several local high school and middle school jazz ensembles at Memorial Auditorium.

That evening’s concert, also in Memorial Auditorium, features the Ohio University Jazz Percussion Ensemble directed by Roger Braun, Jazz Ensemble I directed by Sean Parsons, and Jazz Ensemble II directed by Joe Kuhlman.

Jazz Ensemble I will be joined by special guests James Moore (trumpet) and Jeff Bush (trombone), who will perform works by Ohio University faculty as well as jazz standards.

“James Moore is a professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Jeff Bush teaches at a few different universities and maintains a national profile as a jazz trombonist, notably as the lead trombonist for Harry Connick, Jr. from 2007 to 2009. Both are world-class musicians and educators,” said Parsons.

That academic component is a major part of the festival’s mission–part artistry, part education, according to Parsons.

“They [students] will have the chance to work alongside both of these guest artists in the jazz ensemble,” he said. “We’ve been working on music that feature James and Jeff, and the students will get immediate feedback on style, interpretation and history.”

The festival wraps up on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, featuring performances by the OU Jazz Combos, led by John Horne and Sean Parsons.

Parsons said that although jazz aficionados will be pleased with the weekend’s schedule, those new to the genre should also find plenty to enjoy.

“For those who have never experienced jazz, all of the events will feature the full-spectrum of jazz music. Historical music and modern interpretations of jazz music will be performed at every event,” he explained. “Our student performances on Saturday and Sunday demonstrate the quality and talent of those who choose to study music at OU. From the Jazz Percussion Ensemble to our jazz combos, we’re excited to share a true American art form.”

All events are free and open to the public.


Friday, April 17, 7:30 p.m., ARTS/West

The Big League Big Band, featuring Matt James, Jay Miglia, Chris Clark, Michael Cox, Curtis Johnson (saxophones); Jeff Bush, Scott Garlock, Ryan Hamilton, Lucas Rego-Borges (trombones); Rob Parton, James Moore, Martin Saunders, Jeff Wolfe (trumpets); Sean Parsons (piano); Roger Braun (drums); Steven Heffner (bass); and John Horne (guitar)

Saturday, April 18, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Auditorium

Jazz Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble I, Jazz Ensemble II with special guests James Moore (trumpet) and Jeff Bush (trombone)

Sunday, April 19, 7:30 p.m., Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery

OU Jazz Combos, led by John Horne and Sean Parsons