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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
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Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

NMU Jazz Tradition plays on

The annual Jazz Festival, now in its 18th year as an established NMU tradition, will feature live jazz in Jamrich Hall and Reynolds Recital Hall throughout the day on Friday, April 11, according to NMU jazz band director Mark Flaherty.

Senior music education major Robert Strieter (left), freshman mechanical engineering technology major Brad O’Hagan (middle) and freshman environmental science and history major Elizabeth Rogers (right) practice trumpet during the jazz band rehearsal.
Senior music education major Robert Strieter (left), freshman mechanical engineering technology major Brad O’Hagan (middle) and freshman environmental science and history major Elizabeth Rogers (right) practice trumpet during the jazz band rehearsal.

“Walk around Jamrich and there are literally performances starting every 20 minutes,” Flaherty said. “There’s a lot of energy surrounding the whole event.”
During the Jazz Fest, a visiting artist will be featured in a culminating evening performance, with 27 middle and high school ensembles performing on campus from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 11 in Jamrich Hall. They will be adjudicated by music professors visiting from Wisconsin and Michigan, who will also administer clinics.
According to music department head Robert Engelhart, students and community members can attend performances even if they only have a few minutes to spare.

“[They can] walk in on something without being held captive, get a flavor of it and leave,” Engelhart said. “Kind of like channel surfing.”

The festival is a very inviting event for jazz enthusiasts throughout upper Michigan, Engelhart said.

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“It’s very stimulating for our own students because they get to perform with the visiting artists and learn from them,” he said. “They are also involved in selecting the artists.”

The visiting artist this year, who will help adjudicate the younger ensembles, give a clinic and play with the NMU Jazz and Jazz combo bands Friday evening, is a three-time Grammy nominee and vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

Trombone player and senior music education major Robb Strieter, co-president of the student group, Friends of Jazz, one of the sponsors of the festival, said he appreciates getting a completely different perspective when it comes to interpreting jazz.

“It’s nice to have some one not only experienced, but also well-known,” he said. “You just learn a lot. It’s really cool, for lack of a better word.”

Harris is a six-time recipient of best mallet player by the Jazz Journalism Assoc., recipient of Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award and has performed at some of the world’s most distinguished concert halls. He teaches at New York University.

“We’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing guest artists in the past, so [it] is a really exciting thing to see the band rise to the occasion,” Flaherty said.

Harris will be performing with the NMU Jazz and NMU Jazz Combo band in the closing concert for the festival at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 11 in Kaufman Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at all NMU EZ Ticket locations, online or by calling (906) 227-1032. Tickets for NMU students are $6, non-NMU students $8 and the general public $11. Harris will also teach a clinic at 4 p.m. Friday, April 11 in Jamrich 102, which is free and open to the public.

Engelhart said jazz is intriguing to watch live because of the energy, improvisation and the fact that it’s a less formal music genre.

“People who just like more informal concert environments and haven’t had much exposure to jazz, it will be a great experience for them,” Engelhart said. “It may not be a Kiss concert, but it’s not a sit-down-and-shut-up sort of concert either.”

Flaherty said jazz is important for students, whether musical or not, because it’s music that came directly out of the history of this country.

“There are a lot of aspects of jazz that reflect American culture,” he said. “Sometimes people [compare it to] democracy and being able to work together and balance the importance of individual voice while maintaining a structure within the group.”Strieter said he enjoys playing and performing jazz, especially the improvisation element.

“People think its easier, that it’s just making up notes, but there’s a whole system behind it,” he said. “You can hear the same jazz song 20 times and it’ll be different every time, which makes jazz really special compared to a lot of other genres of music.”

Due to personal circumstances, the originally scheduled artist, Regina Carter, will no longer be guest performing at this year’s Jazz Festival. Arrangements are being made for Carter to perform at NMU in the future. The NMU Jazz Festival is sponsored by NMU Friends of Jazz, the Music department and the College of Arts and Sciences.


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