Guests artists to perform, educate students in annual Bill Watrous Jazz Festival

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Students will be able to enjoy the sounds of jazz during the 53rd Bill Watrous Jazz Festival at Sam Houston State University this Friday and Saturday.

The festival is the longest running jazz festival in Texas and will feature performances from visiting jazz bands during the day, a clinic from famous saxophonist Bob Mintzer and an evening concert.

For two days, students can watch middle school, high school and college jazz bands perform every 30 minutes from 9 to 6 p.m. in the concert hall at the Performing Arts Center for free.

Director of Jazz Studies Aric Schneller is piloting the jazz festival and is excited for what the festival has to offer this year.

“Music is about performing, so you’ll get to see lots of performances, and for young jazz musicians it’s good to have an audience to support them and vice versa,” Schneller said. “If we’re gonna keep jazz alive in this country we have to bring it to the young people. If you don’t, it’s not going to survive and it’s America’s great music.”

Both nights will feature a concert by the SHSU Jazz Ensemble with special guests Bill Watrous, famous jazz trombonist and namesake of the festival, and Mintzer.

Mintzer will also be holding a free clinic at 1:15 p.m. on both days.

Lead trombone player in the jazz ensemble, Ramsey Hampton, is looking forward to learning from the special guests.

“The clinics that Mintzer will give should be very enlightening and insightful. It’s a great opportunity to learn from one of the greats,” Hampton said. “Also, being able to share the stage with these world class artists should be a treat. I am looking forward to hearing great jazz music from these people and from the participating schools in the festival.”

Schneller is looking forward to not only watching the visiting jazz bands but for the evening concerts as well.

“I think what I’m looking forward to the most is being on stage with my students, performing with Bill Watrous and Bob Mintzer,” Schneller said. “I’m always looking forward to having my students perform with professionals. I like being there to witness it and to help facilitate it.”

Lead trumpet player in the SHSU Jazz Ensemble, Brian Fincher, is excited to perform at the evening concerts.

“It will be a great few days of playing and concerts. Bill Watrous and Bob Mintzer are both fantastic musicians and educators,” Fincher said. “I can’t wait to share the stage with them and hear what they have to say.”

Schneller’s big hope is that the jazz festival will encourage students who are visiting the campus to think about joining the jazz program at SHSU.

“It’s really about jazz education,” Schneller said. “Performance is key, but performance and jazz education go hand in hand. We have a great program here and I want to see it grow.”

Tickets for the evening concerts can be bought at the ticket center in the PAC and are $5 for students, $15 for the public and $12 for senior citizens.