45th annual CMU Jazz Weekend brings professionals, alumni


Students from Jazz Lab 1 play saxophones on Feb. 1 at Staples Family Concert Hall in the Music Building. 

Central Michigan University's campus filled with high school jazz bands and professionals this Feb. 1-2 for the 45th annual CMU Jazz Weekend to perform and learn from guest artist Andy Martin.

Hosted by the School of Music, the weekend provided an opportunity for Michigan high school students to visit CMU to play in front of professional judges. This year, 66 high schools were represented. 

School of Music faculty member Robbie Smith said the event is used as a recruitment opportunity for the university and to promote jazz throughout the community.  

“CMU Jazz Weekend is a great opportunity for students to learn from professionals and become inspired to further a career in Jazz,” Smith said. 

The weekend kicked off the evening of Feb. 1with a performance by Jazz Lab 1 and faculty jazz soloists at Staples Family Concert Hall. Jazz Lab 1 is an on-campus student jazz band. The crowd — filled with high school musicians — erupted with applause when the band stepped onto the stage.

Martin, an international jazz trombonist, took the stage at the end and played with the visiting alumni. Martin has been featured as leader and co-leader for 12 albums. He has also collaborated with other known jazz artists such as Carl Fontana, Pete Christlieb, Bobby Shew and Eric Marienthal.

High school students began playing for judges at 8 a.m Feb. 2. The bands were separated into six groups and performed while judges analyzed the performance. The groups performed in six different locations — Staples Family Concert Hall, Powers Ball Room, Plachta Auditorium, the Bovee University Center Rotunda, Norman C. Dietz Band Hall and Chamichian Recital Hall.

There were also performances from other CMU jazz bands throughout the day including the Michael Hanna Trio, Donovan Boxey Nonet and the Central Wails Saxophone Orchestra.  

In the afternoon, Martin and CMU faculty hosted hosted a clinic for CMU and high school students. The clinic was intended for students to ask questions and learn from professionals. 

The students performed for Midwest clinicians and adjudicators, many of whom are CMU alums. 

“I have seen a high level of playing from the bands, individuals and sections," said alumnus Corey Allen. "The high schoolers have a high respect for the material and have put in a lot of preparation. Although they would probably benefit from listening to more jazz music."

Vijay Kennedy, a student participating from Traverse City Central High School was focused on the evaluation of the performance from judges. 

“I am not nervous to perform. I’m excited to see what the audience will think," Kennedy said. 

Before the final performance, CMU hosted an award ceremony in Plachta Auditorium. There were several high school bands and individuals awarded. The festival concluded Friday evening with a performance by Martin in Plachta Auditorium. Martin played along with CMU’s Jazz Lab 1. 

Martin has traveled the world and to various universities sharing his passion for music and providing inspiration to younger students. He recently spent time playing in South Korea.

“I enjoy coming to universities because I love working with students and hope to inspire them to do something within the music industry,” Martin said. “Listening to jazz and the greats is how you become better. This weekend was a great opportunity for CMU students and high school students to improve their skills."