When guest artists come to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, they not only bring incredible performances, but also years of experience to share with students.
Claudio Roditi is one guest this year, and he has attended the festival many times before. Music education major Ruben MacKenzie will play with Roditi as part of the Lionel Hampton School of Music’s jazz ensembles, and said he is excited for the visit.
“Not only because Claudio is a great player, but all the stories from the old days about Claudio coming are like, he was the man, he was the hang,” MacKenzie said. “Like he was so cool and sacrificed a ton of time for not getting paid a bunch to just hang out with us and teach us and stuff.”
MacKenzie said Roditi spent full days in the School of Music before the Jazz Fest started.
“Just chilling, making sure he was at classes and rehearsals and stuff. Teaching people, giving trumpet lessons, all of the really great things that have not been as abundant in recent years,” MacKenzie said. “It’s going to be great to have him back.”
Trumpet professor Vern Sielert is the artistic adviser for Jazz Fest and said he has worked since last April selecting and booking guest artists. He said when looking for an artist, the music comes first.
“We’re looking for people who obviously are great performers, but who have passion for education and the whole idea of promoting this music to the next generation,” Sielert said. “I choose people that I like and that I knew people would like and that would be inspirational for all the students that are visiting, and hopefully there’s a little something for everybody.”
Guest artists perform in the evenings, but during the day they hold workshops for music students and community members from all over the region. Sielert said performing artists enjoy the opportunity to take a more educational role.
“I think all musicians are teachers. It’s part of the cycle, somebody helped me figure out a bunch of things, and so it’s my responsibility at some point in my career to pass it on,” Sielert said. “As cheesy as it sounds, I think that’s really true.”
Sielert said performing with the artists can be a transformational experience for some students.
“There’s something about wanting to do your best because you know you’re going to be playing with someone who’s really great and world famous,” Sielert said. “For me, it was always so inspirational just to be on the same stage with somebody of that stature. It’s an experience that can’t be recreated in any other kind of academic situation.”
This is first year in a decade where the organization of the festival is back in the hands of the School of Music, rather than the separate Jazz Fest office. MacKenzie said it’s better that way.
“I think it’s important that music festivals are run by musicians, and I think the School of Music has already done great job running it,” MacKenzie said. “I think the ticket sales, the student attendance already shows that the festival is back where it belongs.”
MacKenzie said he is excited to play with Roditi.
“I love Claudio’s performance. He always sounds great. It’s going to be an experience for sure,” MacKenzie said. “I just remember when the news broke everyone was just like, ‘Holy shit, Claudio’s coming back.’ That was the vibe.”
Jack Olson can be reached at email@example.com