Lincoln, Neb. - The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Jazz Orchestra and Graduate Jazztet picked up Outstanding Ensemble honors at the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival Feb. 21-24 at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill.
One of the oldest college jazz festivals in the U.S., Elmhurst's annual celebration brings together the top names in the industry and the leading college bands from around the nation.
The UNL Jazz Orchestra was one of five big bands selected for Outstanding Ensemble honors out of 24 ensembles participating in the festival. The UNL Graduate Jazztet was one of four combos selected for Outstanding Ensemble honors out of 16 combos participating in the festival.
Doug Beach, Director of the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, had high praise for UNL.
“Your groups performed with wonderful musicianship, creative improvisational skills and displayed precision ensemble work,” Beach said. “As a result of your high-level performances, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was one of only two schools to receive outstanding group awards in both the big band and the small group categories. All of this was out of a pool of 41 collegiate ensembles that performed throughout the Festival.”
School of Music Director John W. Richmond said the accolades continue to build the success of the UNL Jazz Program.
"The UNL Jazz Program has made stunning strides thanks to the leadership of our internationally acclaimed jazz faculty. Drs. Paul Haar and Eric Richards each enjoyed great success with our jazz students in years past at the Northern Colorado Jazz Festival and the University of Kansas Jazz Festival, winning top honors at both,” Richmond said. “We decided this fall to take a bold, new step and send our students and their faculty to the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival just outside Chicago. It is among the nation's best known and most respected collegiate jazz venues.”
In addition, UNL received individual musician awards at the Festival. Graduate students Kara Baxter, Bryan McEntire and Masayoshi Ishikawa received honors in the Combos & Vocalist category. Graduate students Chris Varga, Dave Stamps, McEntire and Ishikawa received honors in the Band and Vocalist category.
“The Elmhurst Festival trip was a great experience for both the UNL Jazz Orchestra and the UNL Graduate Jazztet,” Stamps said. “The ensembles performed at a very high level at every venue, and the team vibe of the band grew stronger daily. The success of the UNL Jazz groups at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival is another testament to the growing strength of the UNL Jazz program.”
The programs for both groups were composed entirely by UNL composers.
“As a composer, one of the best parts of participating in these groups is getting to hear a piece you wrote come to life with the players,” Baxter said. “We performed my arrangement of ‘Pure Imagination’ in the Jazztet. In fact, all of the music we played at Elmhurst in both groups was written by someone in the group, so it really gave us a unique and individual voice. Both groups have really great musicians, and it was an honor to be on stage together.”
Richmond said UNL Jazz is earning national respect.
“The UNL School of Music is quickly becoming a 'first-choice' institution for serious students seeking the very best in jazz performance, jazz composition and jazz pedagogy,” he said. “I simply couldn't be more thrilled for them or prouder of them."