Critics of performances at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival are not called judges. Gregg Miller prefers a less intimidating term instead – Performance Evaluation Clinician (PEC).
“Judge has kind of a threatening sound,” Miller said. “We try to encourage and teach rather than pass judgment on people.”
Miller has been a PEC for Jazz Fest for about four years. He said he came about the job after he met Executive Director of Jazz Fest Steve Remington when they were both applying for the same position at the University of Idaho. Miller was in the final round of the search when he was introduced to Remington, and even though Remington ultimately got the job, he said they were soon friends. He was asked to be a PEC shortly after.
As a PEC, Miller is tasked with giving both written and verbal feedback to Jazz Fest performers. Since he plays the clarinet, he said he usually evaluates instrumental ensembles.
“I”ve heard some things that are pretty darn impressive,” he said.
Along with playing the clarinet, Miller said he”s had similar positions as a PEC at other events and has worked as a music instructor for 15 years. He received his bachelor”s degree in music from Washington State University. He said he wants the performers he evaluates at Jazz Fest to leave with something concrete to remember so they can improve their skills.
“Playing music is a lot of fun,” he said. “But it”s more fun to play it well than not so well.”
Miller first attended Jazz Fest in the “70s and has known about the event since he was in high school. Since then, he said the event has grown so much and has become more focused on education rather than competition.
Though he grew up in Pullman, Miller now travels to Moscow from Port Townsend, Washington, which is about an eight to nine hour drive, he said. But he still attends Jazz Fest every year because he said he hears something he”s never heard before each time he goes.
He said Jazz Fest is worth travelling to Moscow for because he enjoys seeing the hard work of students and other artists pay off. He knows how important the event is for many performers and realizes how much time and effort goes into each song. He said he”s glad he gets to witness the final product.
“You realize that you are seeing the fruit of a lot of hard work,” he said. “It”s both exciting and it”s a lot of responsibility to give them something worth coming all the way to Moscow for.”
Jazz Fest is one of the high points of Miller”s year. He said he will return as a PEC as long as he is asked to be there, and would probably attend as a regular spectator even if he isn”t a PEC.
“As long as there”s good jazz I”d like to be there,” Miller said.