The UNC Department of Music is elated to host the 44th Annual Carolina Jazz Festival. The festival will look a little different this year but will contain the same spark and vibrancy. The festival will kick off with two concerts; the UNC Faculty Jazz Concert, which will be livestreamed on Feb. 18 at 7:30 pm, and the UNC Jazz Combo Concert, which will be livestreamed on Feb. 19 at 7:30 pm. From Feb. 19 to Feb. 20, there will be coaching sessions for the high school jazz ensembles and individual participants.
While the pandemic has challenged the department’s ability to host the high-schoolers in person and have high school ensemble performances, they have worked hard to uphold the important experience of this festival by restructuring the events. Director of Jazz Studies Stephen Anderson discussed this, saying “we’ve focused on giving interactive clinics over Zoom,” where students will be able to receive instruction on their particular instrument that may also include improvisation technique as well. These times are specific to the different high school participants to combat “Zoom fatigue” over the weekend.
Another adjustment to the festival is that instead of holding an array of competitions for the high school ensembles and combos, the UNC Jazz Studies Faculty and guest artists will be judging a Solo Performance Competition. Students will record themselves backed by tracks from the UNC Jazz Studies Faculty which will be submitted for judging by Feb. 16.
And like the Jazz Faculty Concert in October 2020, the Jazz Combo and Faculty Concert will be livestreamed using the remote pod system installed by Jesse Moorefield and Jay Harper. This new low-latency system allows wind/brass instrumentalists or singers to be separated from the masked players in their own space, but all players are able to hear each other in real-time, mimicking the experience of playing together in one space.
The department is also excited for Anderson’s leadership of the festival following Jim Ketch’s retirement in the spring of 2020. Ketch founded the festival his first year at UNC and continued to organize it every year of his 43-year tenure.
“[Jim Ketch] has established an important tradition of excellence in Jazz Studies at UNC that my colleagues and I are excited to continue to carry forward,” said Anderson. “My colleagues and I celebrate both the history of jazz at UNC, as well as the history of our art form, while at the same time, we look to the future of the music.”
Helping move the department forward are two new additions to the department, Assistant Professor Rahsaan Barber and Adjunct Associate Professor of Jazz Guitar & Jazz Studies Artist-In-Residence Baron Tymas (full-time Associate Professor at North Carolina Central University). Professor Barber will be participating in the festival for the first time as a faculty member, judging the Solo Performance Competition as well as providing instruction on improvisation in jazz style. He remarked, “it’s a new experience for me and I’m just looking forward to getting my feet wet.” While Professor Barber has participated in the festival once before as a guest artist, he has never had such an integral role.
“We have a unique opportunity to share our resources in a way that’s really meaningful, because now more than ever, high-schoolers are often not having exposure to the art form, and particularly the instruction to the art form at a certain level, given the high school curriculum,” Barber said.
Anderson agreed wholeheartedly, “It is rewarding to see our UNC jazz students perform after we’ve rehearsed together, and it is fun to watch young students perform in the high school portion of the festival, as they are the next generation who will carry the music forward.”
Barber is also looking forward to working with two of his closest colleagues, one of them being his twin brother. Roland Barber, trombone, and Nathan Warner, trumpet, will be guest artists at the Carolina Jazz Festival this year. Barber expressed his appreciation of the opportunity to work with people he knows, especially family he’s played with his whole life. “I’m excited that we’re meeting the challenge of long-distance learning by pulling in people who otherwise probably wouldn’t be in the festival.”
The UNC Department of Music invites you to join the livestream viewing of the UNC Faculty Jazz Concert and UNC Jazz Combos on the department’s YouTube channel on Feb. 18 and 19. The department is proud to continue this tradition of engaging the next generation of jazz musicians.
By Audrey, Ladele, UNC Department of Music