Lawrence University boasts annual jazz festival


Lawrence University's Jazz Weekend was founded in 1981 to bring professional jazz artists to the school's Wisconsin campus, establish a non-competitive jazz educational festival and promote improvisation as the primary focus in school jazz ensembles, according to administrators.

The 1981 festival attracted 125 students from eight local high school ensembles. By 1987, Jazz Weekend attracted over 1,000 middle school, high school, collegiate and teacher participants from 60 schools in five Midwestern states.

In recent years, the school has decided to be creative with the festival's offerings. One year, the celebration featured Latin-inspired music.

"American jazz intersected with rhythms and forms from Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico more than 60 years ago," said Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies at Lawrence. "Visionaries like Dizzy Gillespie, Machito, Mario Bauza, Chano Pozo and Stan Kenton started fusing the diverse elements and saxophonist Stan Getz scored a global hit in the mid 1960s with his jazzy bossa nova, 'The Girl from Ipanema.'"

Brazil's Grammy-winning singer Luciana Souza and her trio opened the event. Trombonist Conrad Herwig, who has recorded Latin-styled tributes to Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, took the stage after. Souza was joined by the Lawrence Hybrid Ensemble, while the Lawrence Jazz Faculty Quartet, Jazz Ensemble and Trombone Ensemble performed with Herwig. 

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