By Liz Ellis, Reporter
Jazz lovers in Southern Missouri should mark their calendars for the annual Jazz Fest, scheduled for next weekend at Three Rivers College.
The festival begins Feb. 16 and runs until Feb. 18. While much of the event is aimed at area students, there will be a free concert open to the public on the first and last day of the festival. These concerts are both at 7 p.m. in the Tinnin Fine Arts Center.
“This is a chance for folks to experience something that they can’t experience at home,” said Kris Berg, guest artist and clinician for the festival.
This year’s festival will include 13 different jazz bands from eight schools, totaling more than 300 students. The festival is open to both junior high and high school as well as Three Rivers students. During the days of the festival, Berg will be speaking and working with jazz students, along with directing one of the concerts.
“We are all looking forward to meeting Kris,” said Buddy White, Three Rivers music instructor and host of the festival. “It’s neat that his old high school is one of the schools that regularly attend this event. It’s part of the reason he is doing the festival and it shows we have a very high quality of student musicians in this area.”
Berg is the director of Jazz Studies at Collin College in Denton, Texas, although he is originally from Desloge, and attended North County High School. Berg is a best-selling big band composer and arranger for Belwin Jazz, a division of Alfred Publishing, and is especially known for his funk charts. He has written charts for many artists and for honors bands in Texas, Oklahoma, Montana and Missouri, and for colleges and public school bands across the country. Berg’s music has been performed and recorded all over the world.
“I love doing festivals and working with young students of jazz,” Berg said. “I have been truly blessed with an ever-evolving career and I feel I have things to pass on to a younger generation, just like the guests I used to see passed on things to me when I was that age.”
In addition to the celebration of jazz, this festival will include some information about black history month.
“So many jazz artists are famous black musicians,” White explained. “A lot of jazz music comes from Africa—the rhythms, the tuning systems that we’re using—and it enriches everyone’s culture as a whole.”
Originally, the festival began as simply a way for student jazz musicians to learn about their music. Now, 21 years later, this part of Missouri is well known for its jazz music, according to White.
“I would say that it’s true we have a reputation for jazz here,” White said. “Out of the 21 years, we’ve had over 21 clinicians from all over the state… We have a reputation to do a little better every year, and we have. It’s grown so much, and the musicality of all the students has grown so much.”
This festival will feature two performances open to the public, one on Feb. 16 and the other on Feb. 18. The first one will include the guest clinician and jazz bands from Jefferson, Poplar Bluff, Dexter, Charleston and North County schools, in addition to the Three Rivers College Jazz Combo, directed by White. The Southeast District All-Jazz Band will be performing on Feb. 18 under the direction of Berg.
“It is great music, and the audience will leave tapping their feet,” White said. “They will leave singing the songs they hear and they will feel better about the young people in this country.”
For more information on the Jazz Fest, call the Three Rivers music department at 573-840-9639.
Liz Ellis can be reached by emailing email@example.com or by calling 573-785-2200.