UTA Jazz Festival represents musical melting pot

The Jazz Orchestra plays with Jimmy Cobb at a jazz concert Sept. 25, 2016 inside Texas Hall. The 44th UTA Jazz Festival is Feb. 23 and 24 inside the Bluebonnet Ballroom. 

Students looking to listen to the forerunner of their favorite music can jazz up their weekend at the 44th annual UTA Jazz Festival.

This Friday and Saturday, schools from across the Metroplex will showcase their jazz bands in the Bluebonnet Ballroom for the 44th annual UTA Jazz Festival. Jazz bands from various middle schools and high schools will be competing against each other from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for both days of the festival, said Timothy Ishii, director of jazz studies and saxophone and associate chairperson of music. The first day of the festival will focus on middle school bands, while the second day will consist of 4A, 5A and 6A division high school bands. Performances by the competing bands will be open to the public free of charge, Ishii said.

After the first day of the competition concludes on Saturday, the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and is a ticketed event, costing $9 for general admission and $6 for students and senior citizens. The festival will include a concert featuring guitarist Tom Rizzo, known for work ranging from “The Tonight Show” and The Peanuts Movie, accompanied by the UT Arlington Jazz Orchestra, Ishii said.

Dan Cavanagh, interim chairperson of music and associate professor of music, said more students should listen to jazz music.

Jazz is the progenitor of nearly every type of modern American music, Cavanagh said. Jazz has always drawn from popular music, and the two are audibly intertwined. Hip-hop, alternative rock, blues, rhythm and blues, and even pop music all stem from jazz roots, he said.

“As something that continued developing alongside of these new popular music styles that we’re all familiar with, it’s really cool to kind of draw some parallels to those things and see how they have diverged but also continued along similar paths,” Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh said he loves jazz because of the freedom that it allows performers, especially with the improvisational aspects. He said that musicians improvising and interacting with each other is an excellent representation of the nature of humanity.

Cavanagh added that one of the special aspects of jazz is its origin within the African-American community of New Orleans in the early 1920s and how it brought musicians of all races and backgrounds together to perform. “To me, jazz is a history of civil rights in this country,” Cavanagh said. “And it was one of the things, especially because it was so popular in the ‘30s and ‘40s, that allowed the civil rights movement to gain steam.”

The jazz festival is not just a great recruiting tool for the UTA music department, said Stefan Karlsson, specialist and guest artist-in-residence. Karlsson will be acting as a judge and clinician for the competing bands at the festival, he said. Karlsson said that jazz is the best vehicle to display the talent that the musicians of the Metroplex have through one of the broadest musical styles. 

“I think we all should support live music,” Karlsson said. “Without that we would lose a long tradition of having music out there in the community.”

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